There was no place for Medicaid or uninsured patients to receive low-cost dental care in Daviess County before the opening of Community Dental Clinic in 2009. On Friday, the local establishment celebrated 10 successful years in operation.
Located at 2811 New Hartford Road, Community Dental Clinic is the only privately-owned dental clinic in the state that isn’t supported by either a university or a major organization. Dr. Brandon Taylor is currently the only full-time dentist serving clients at Community Dental, but the clinic is in the process of hiring a second dentist, board members say.
“We started out with part-time dentists from private practice. They’d come in one day a week and take turns with the patients,” Taylor said. “The continuity of care wasn’t really there, but we had some really dedicated board members who were there from the beginning, and that’s when I came in.”
Community Dental Clinic provides several services for Medicaid and uninsured patients, such as root canal therapy, toothache relief and dental emergencies. Board members say that the need for low-cost dental care in Owensboro is extremely high as Kentucky ranks second in the country for individuals with missing teeth.
It used to be that clients paid out of pocket for oral health care services but, in recent years, 99 percent of patients are completely covered by Medicaid.
“We advocate at the local, state and national level, and we go to these meetings and bring light to the issues going on in western Kentucky,” Taylor said. “A lot of times, people are aware of what’s going on in Appalachia, but they don’t realize we have the same exact issues going on here.”
A struggle to maintain dental providers that accept Medicaid patients has been a prevalent issue over the years — mostly because the reimbursements are so low, Taylor said.
“Patients will struggle to find a provider,” he said. “We accept patients based upon a cancellation policy, and we’ve served over 14,000 patients since we’ve opened.”
Community Dental Clinic primarily serves those in the Daviess County region, but they open up slots for those living across the entire seven-county Green River district as well.
Board Chair Suzanne Craig called celebrating Community Dental Clinic’s 10-year anniversary “a dream come true.”
“We try to give our patients dignity by having a state-of-the-art medical facility,” she said. “The problem in childhood and adulthood is so great that we meet an important need, but, by far, we can’t meet the whole need. Without us, though, thousands of people would suffer.”
Craig said that without financial support from major organizations, it’s no accident that their facility has the word “community” in its title.
“It’s unsustainable just with Medicaid dollars, so we have to have community support,” she said. “We have that through grants, donations — that, added with reimbursements, makes us able to break even.”
Breaking even is a sign of success for the clinic, Craig said, because meeting the needs across the community is more important to board members and staff than making a big profit. In order to serve more people, Craig said the facility has big plans for expansion in the near future.
“We’re waiting on Medicaid credentials, but they can find out within the next 30 to 60 days,” she said. “[With another dentist], we could double the capacity and serve thousands more.”