June 06, 2020

LD 2099, An Act to Provide Increased Access to Dental Care in Maine, sponsored by House Speaker Steven Rowe of Portland, is being considered by the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. It is a vitally needed bill.

Dentists, low-income adults and social service providers have long decried the fact that there is no preventive dental care in Maine for adult Medicaid recipients or other low-income people. The only option available to these people are emergency services, usually extraction; and then only if they are lucky enough to find a dentist who excepts Medicaid — and very few dentists will accept adult Medicaid patients.

Medicaid will not pay for any preventive services. Ordinary fillings, root canals, caps and dentures are beyond the means of most low-income people. This deplorable reality leaves many young and older adults with severe dental problems because they can not afford out-of-pocket dental care. Imagine being a young adult applying for a job with a gap-toothed smile, or an older citizen trying to eat and maintain nutrition with no dentures. Consider not only that person’s dental health, but their mental health. A young person with self-esteem is more apt to get that job and the older citizen deserves the dignity of having dentures.

If passed, Rep. Rowe’s bill will help create dental clinics in rural areas and other parts of the state that to address the needs of low-income people who need dental services. As reported in the Bangor Daily News on Dec. 4, 1998, the town of Bucksport is planning a model clinic. Catherine Heins reported that Bucksport’s proposed clinic would serve the town and surrounding areas, accept Medicaid and charge fees on a sliding scale.

More such clinics as proposed by Rep. Rowe and L.D. 2099 would do the following:

Increase access to dental services for adult Medicaid and low-income patients.

Create jobs — the new clinics will hire dentists, hygienists and other staff.

Allow preventive care and dental health for low-income adults.

Please contact the legislators on the Health and Human Services Committee and urge them to pass this needed bill. A public hearing on L.D. 2099 will be held 1 pm.m Thursday, April 15, in room 436 of the State House.

Jean Black lives in Bangor.

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