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Advocates Send More Than 1500 Postcards To Mills In Favor Of Bill That Would Expand Dental Coverage

Elana Gordon

Supporters of a bill that would add an adult dental care benefit to the state's Medicaid program delivered more than 1500 postcards today to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills urging her support.

Kirk Robbins, an advocate with the Southern Maine Workers Center, says that for many years his dental issues caused pain that made it difficult for him to eat. When he was first enrolled in MaineCare at age 50, he was covered for everything except dental.

“I could get psychiatric help, I had counselors, I got a primary care physician at Family Medicine,” Robbins says. “If I needed emergency care that was available to me, but there's no way to get dental care.”

Robbins says he was not able to get needed dentures until he had a medical emergency.

Sue Drew, a dental Hygienist in Washington County, says it is common for people with low incomes to stop going to the dentist after the age of 21 because of the cost.

“Patients only seem to return once they have a toothache,” she says. “They have waited too long, unfortunately, and typically at that point to save a tooth is very expensive treatment, so more than not they elect to have the extraction.”

Drew says those who can't afford preventive dental care may develop serious chronic health problems and require costly emergency room care.

A public hearing on the legislation has been scheduled for Monday.