I had a root canal this week. It was quite the experience. It has been painful and was amazingly expensive. But I was lucky. I have a good dentist who got me in quickly and I had some savings. But it all made me think about the folks in this community who are not so fortunate.

OICF supports MTI’s Dental Van which has served the community for 6 years now. Our initial thoughts were that we would focus on the emergent cases in the first year or two and then move onto cleanings and general checkups.

We were wrong.

Even though about 120 patients are served per year, six years in almost every patient is still in serious need, experiencing pain and often infection. While the van is a good (and for some the only) option, it frequently requires a delay in treatment with patients waiting in pain for the quarterly clinic.

Until recently, children who qualify for Apple Care (state insurance) were treated by Dr. Bailey, but at great expense, as Apple does not reimburse at a rate that covers the costs. Dr Bailey lost significant revenue, requiring a cut of staff benefits to try to make ends meet. In the end, he could not sustain the practice. Now there is no dentist on Orcas who will accept Apple Care. The County recently stepped in to bring Operation Smile to Orcas in October. It is another dental van program serving children and pregnant women.

These vans are a stopgap measure. We really need to come up with a better plan. Dental health is critical. Over the next few months, OICF will be convening the local dentists and staffs to discuss a long term plan to address this continuing need.  We have also reached out to the Arcora Foundation to learn more about their pilot test for integration of dental and medical practices. They have worked with UW Clinics elsewhere and perhaps they can help us identify a role for our local Docs. The inadequate Apple reimbursement rate needs to be addressed as well. It is a complex issue all around, but I am hopeful that this community is creative enough to figure this out.

Hope you have a lovely weekend.