Remote Area Medical back in western Virginia, as the battle to expand Medicaid rolls on…
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The three-day clinic, which relies on more than 1,000 volunteers, will serve as many as 3,000 people before it ends Sunday. The vast majority of patients — more than 70 percent — come for dental care, Brock said.
Every year, hundreds of people have every one of their teeth pulled there. Then they put their names into a denture lottery, with the hope of being picked to get a set of false teeth made for them at the next year’s event. Forty-six people were picked from a list of 700 to get dentures this year.
“They pull thousands of teeth here. At the end, they’ll have buckets of teeth,” said volunteer Jennifer Lee, Virginia’s deputy secretary of health and human resources and an emergency room doctor.
Medicaid expansion would not fully alleviate the dental situation. Medicaid does not cover routine dental care for adults or dentures. But Medicaid does pay for emergency tooth extractions, so patients would not have to wait a year to have a bad one pulled.
“I just had an 18-year-old have a full mouth extraction because she’s never had dental care,” said Beth Bortz, who runs the Virginia Center for Health Innovation. “It’s not unusual.”
She said patients often want their good teeth removed, too, because they associate teeth with pain. She said health-care providers counsel them to keep them.