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

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Elana Gordon
/
WHYY via NPR

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.

Ed is a Maine native who spent his early childhood in Livermore Falls before moving to Farmington. He graduated from Mount Blue High School in 1970 before going to the University of Maine at Orono where he received his BA in speech in 1974 with a broadcast concentration. It was during that time that he first became involved with public broadcasting. He served as an intern for what was then called MPBN TV and also did volunteer work for MPBN Radio.