3,011 elderly, disabled patients get $8.4 million in free dental care over 15 years

WEST ALLIS, WIS., Aug. 6, 2013 – The Wisconsin Dental Association Foundation’s Donated Dental Services program is marking 15 years during which 792 volunteer dentists provided more than $8.4 million in comprehensive dental care at no charge to 3,011 adults who cannot work due to a permanent disability, chronic illness or advanced age. An additional $613,000 in supplies and services was provided by 154 dental labs.

During its most-recent fiscal year (July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013), the DDS program delivered $802,434 in care to 246 state residents. Dental labs contributed an additional $54,577 in services and product support.

“I am proud to be associated with the DDS program, not only as one of the members who assisted in starting it, but also as a longtime volunteer. It has been extremely gratifying to see the response from my colleagues and the extended dental community during the past 15 years,” WDA Foundation Vice President Dr. Loren Swanson of Oshkosh said.

In addition to their disability, illness or advanced age, DDS patients don’t qualify for government assistance programs which further restricts their ability to obtain needed oral health care. Many DDS patients generally need extensive and often costly dental work that can include bridges, crowns or dentures at a cost of about $3,600 per person.

Patients are selected on the basis of financial need and a phone interview with a referral coordinator. A patient candidate then visits a volunteer dentist who assesses dental need and decides whether to accept the financial and clinical responsibilities of providing comprehensive dental care for the individual.

The state of Wisconsin, Delta Dental of Wisconsin Charitable Fund, Pierre Fauchard Academy Foundation and WDA Insurance and Services Corp. provide limited monetary support for administrative and lab costs. On average, participating dentists donate more than $8 in clinical expertise, treatment and materials for every dollar in funding from the three entities and more than $13 in care for every dollar the state contributes to the program.

According to the most recent national examination survey, root surface cavities affect 50 percent of adults aged 75 years or older. Tooth decay and periodontal or gum disease are the most common reasons for tooth loss among adults.

County Oral Health Wisconsin Surveillance System data from the state Department of Health Services’ Oral Health Program shows 39.5 percent of Wisconsin adults have lost one or more teeth due to decay or gum disease.

As teeth are lost, a person’s ability to chew and speak decreases, which in turn interferes with proper nutrition and social functioning.

“My life is forever changed for the better because of Donated Dental Services and enriched because of the wonderful personal attention provided…,” wrote a DDS patient from La Crosse, Wis. after his treatment by two volunteer dentists and their dental teams was completed this past March.

The WDA and its more than 3,000 member dentists and dental hygienists believe state residents’ health is important to Wisconsin economically and socially, and good oral health is directly tied to good overall health.

Residents of Calumet, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Jefferson, Kenosha, Kewaunee, LaFayette, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Rock, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha and Winnebago counties interested in applying for DDS assistance should contact Program Director Carol Shoemaker at 888-338-6852. Residents of all other Wisconsin counties should call Program Coordinator Carrie Golabowski at 866-812-9840.

Tax-deductible donations in support of this statewide, charitable oral health program should be mailed to WDA Foundation, 6737 W. Washington St., Suite 2360, West Allis WI 53214. Please note “Donated Dental Services” in the check’s memo line. Or, visit the WDA Foundation’s “How you can help” page on WDA.org to donate online.

The DDS program is just one example of how WDA members serve their communities and make a difference by providing charitable care to children and adults facing barriers to dental care across the Badger State.