Federal grant helps Phoenix clinics provide low cost dental care

PHOENIX – The Department of Health and Human Services has distributed $1.48 million to six clinics in Arizona that help underserved communities to improve their dental programs.

Affordable oral care can be difficult to obtain, leaving many people vulnerable to tooth loss, gum disease but also more serious issues, including cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. According to DATOS, an annual report conducted by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, only 38% of Hispanics in Phoenix visited a dentist last year.

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Mountain Park Health Center received $300,000 of the Arizona grants, which are part of the $85 million distributed to clinics and health centers nationwide.

Liliana García, the dental department chair of Mountain Park Health Center, said the grant will be a big help.

“We are so excited to have been awarded the grant,” she said. “We knew there was a lot of competition but we stayed hopeful and we are so excited because we can really use the money.”

Mountain Park Health will use the money to update equipment in its eight clinics and expand the dental program to its Tempe and Goodyear locations.

The other Arizona health organizations sharing $1,476,930 in HHS funding are United Community Center Inc., Adelante Healthcare Inc., Sun Life Family Health Center Inc., El Rio Santa Cruz Neighborhood Health Center Inc. and North Country Healthcare Inc.

Mariela Cornejo takes her children to Mountain Park Health Center for dental care. She’s happy with the services they receive, she said, because dental care is very expensive in other clinics. Cornejo said she paid about $25 per visit, adding that she wouldn’t be able to afford to go elsewhere.

Dental specialists work on a patient at one of three Mountain Park Health Center clinics that offer oral care in Phoenix. (Photo by Tyaun Marshburn/Cronkite News)

Oral care is expensive; the average out-of-pocket cost for a root canal with insurance is $593, according to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center in 2012. Without insurance or a discount, the average out-of-pocket is $1,201.

All Mountain Park Health Center clinics have dental integration, where the dentist does a quick cleaning and talks to patients about the importance of oral health, but the Baseline, Maryvale and Christown locations offer more services.

Health Reporter, Phoenix