Donated dental services for Fairbanks-area seniors
April 1, 2018
Donated Dental Services (DDS), a Dental Lifeline program, provides free dental services for qualifying seniors and those with disabilities in the Fairbanks and North Pole area.
In order to be eligible, the patient must have exhausted all other insurance resources and be able to provide documentation for lack of adequate funds, said Sue Lear, DDS Coordinator.
“Dental insurance through Medicaid must be used first,” said Lear. “Although this is a last resort program, as the dentists are all working on a volunteer basis, our goal is to help as many people as possible. We have to look at an applicant’s monthly income and expenses, and it’s usually obvious to see if someone can’t afford the dental work or an extraction. We’re not hard-nosed about someone applying.”
One aspect of the application includes a medical triage form.
“This is for people with a medical need that want immediate surgery,” explained Lear. “They must have a doctor fill out and sign it. This is especially important with a medical need so the patient can be seen sooner.”
After filling out the online application or mailing it to Lear directly, an applicant can expect a referral from DDS via mail which they will then use to contact their volunteer dentist to schedule an appointment.
“It’s very highly recommended to try and keep the appointment or at least give lots of notice if a cancellation is necessary,” Lear added.
In other Dental Lifeline programs throughout the country, applicants are typically put on a waitlist, but offerings in the Fairbanks and North Pole areas are an unusual case, said Lear.
“Some dentists do restorative work only, things such as crowns and fillings, and will be able to see the patient right away,” she added, “but only three or four dentists in the area will provide services for removable appliances such as dentures and partial plates, therefore, there is usually a waitlist for removable appliances. One person has waited up to a year before, but it’s generally not too long.”
Although services through DDS are not a lifelong solution, some dentists stay in touch with patients and choose to help them more than once.
“That’s only at the dentist’s discretion though,” Lear said. “Sometimes it is possible to assist patients a second time through DDS if the waitlist isn’t too long, but it’s generally only once.”
After the service has been completed, patients can evaluate their dentist.
“Most are very, very pleased with the service and are treated with care by the dentist and their office,” Lear said. “These are the best dentists. I really believe they are doing it just to help people. They volunteer out of their own time because they realize there is a gap in the system when it comes to providing dental care.”
“For a while people didn’t realize how dental health affects the body,” continued Lear. “It can affect the heart, infections can rapidly spread to other parts of the body. There is definitely a need for dental coverage for seniors and people with disabilities, and the medical community is becoming more aware of the importance of dental care. In the meantime, we tend to bend over backwards to make sure people have the care they need.”
To apply for Donated Dental Services, visit http://www.dentallifeline.org and choose Alaska under the State Programs tab, or contact Lear directly at 1-877-977-3802 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and leave your name and address for a paper copy of the application.