Why we care…
Access to oral health care for the region’s low-income, underserved populations has been a recurring theme of community health assessments as far back as 1994, when the Red Logan Dental Clinic was established in response to the recognition that the Upper Valley oral health safety net was inadequate (particularly for adults.)
Between 2003 and 2015, stakeholders and community members identified poor oral health as a leading regional need. Data provided by the APD Upper Valley Smiles school dental program for 2012-13 underscores the health disparity experienced by low-income children who lack a dental home: 29% of the screened children were found to have untreated decay. The statewide average across all NH schools is 12%. Uninsured adults with severe dental pain and/or infection arrive at hospital emergency departments, only to be prescribed antibiotics and/or pain medications, usually narcotics, and told to “go find a dentist to take care of your mouth.” The Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital emergency room sees three to five adults per week who are in this no-win situation, many of whom simply come back weeks later when the medications are gone and the problem has returned. The Red Logan Dental Clinic has a waiting list and does not handle emergencies.
Many Upper Valley adults have no access to dental plans to pay for routine care and provide some benefit for restorative care, which is creating our own version of the “silent epidemic,” compounded by the growing numbers of opiate-addicted individuals whose requests for narcotics due to dental pain create an additional burden on emergency room and primary care providers.