Thousands of Cook County residents on Medicaid or uninsured face the tough challenge of paying for expensive dental care in the Chicago area. According to the article “Need for Low-Cost Dental Care in Cook County Far Exceeds Services” by Monifa Thomas on SunTimes.com, The Bridge to Healthy Smiles campaign has pushed for access to quality dental care in Illinois but there still is only one dental clinic in Cook County for every 15,700 children who are using public aid. This is a huge challenge for those who struggle to afford health insurance .
An audit was recently completed to access the reality of the health care for dental services and it proves to be a huge problem. The Cook County Department of Health has only 4 suburban dental clinics and this is half as many as there were in 2005. Because of this drop in numbers, the number of patients visiting these clinics has dropped significantly and wait times for appointments can be up to a full year which is simply unacceptable.
The report also found that visits to county dental clinics were suspended entirely for a few months when the county was handling the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak. Dr. Cheryl Watson-Lowry of the Chicago Dental Society believes this is a crisis and something must be done to change the poor situation. Access to dental care in Chicago specifically is extra scarce causing even more problems. Community Health Centers are doing what they can to assist the overflow, but it’s still not enough. We’ll see if health care reform can address some of these dire situations.