An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Spokane Dental Clinics Help Patients Without Insurance

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

People who have issues with their teeth and gums may be more at risk for other physical problems. A group called Smile Spokane is working to increase access to dental care for those who can’t afford to get their teeth checked.

Siobhan Whitney leads me through a dental clinic that’s just opening on the Sacred Heart Medical Center campus. Whitney is the co-chair of Smile Spokane, which recently received a $200,000 grant from the Arcora Foundation, run by Delta Dental of Washington. That will help Smile Spokane address problems related to poor oral health. Smile Spokane is a network of organizations that received the funding.

“A lot of infection can typically stem from the mouth, so if you have infection in your mouth, you want to have that taken care of before you receive additional medical services, whether it’s head and neck radiation or if you need a heart valve replaced," Whitney said.

This new clinic is an important part of that strategy. It was a mammography suite that’s been transformed into a six-chair clinic for patients who can’t afford dental insurance.

Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

This is also the home of Providence’s new residency clinic for recent dental school graduates. Beginning next summer, the new dentists will develop their skills by working under the guidance of veteran dentists. Until then, those dentists will see patients and spread the word about the need for good oral health.

“A lot of our pediatricians are starting to champion the fluoride varnish work in the clinics and doing oral education and doing oral screenings on a lot of our younger population to really emphasize the importance behind the oral health piece from a very young age and the parents as well," Whitney said.

Smile Spokane is also involved with a second clinic that will open soon near Holy Family Hospital in north Spokane. That will be operated by the Community Health Association of Spokane, or CHAS, and have 19 chairs.