While healthcare in general can be difficult to navigate and afford in the united states, dental insurance, in particular, is even more of a hassle. Most public and private health insurance companies don’t include dental care within their general health insurance policies, requiring members to either pay more for dental insurance or go without. Combine this with the vast number of people who can’t afford any insurance and you wind up with a large population who cannot access quality dental care. This video shows a dental clinic at Goodwin College where dental hygiene students provide free services for anybody who shows up. Unsurprisingly, the clinic is always busy.
While the clinic is meant for underinsured or uninsured patients, nobody is turned away. Students perform cleanings and exams under the careful eye of their instructors, gaining experience working on real people. Meanwhile, the patients are receiving quality care that they can’t afford anywhere else. Everybody is treated with dignity, especially since, as one student puts it, many students are in the same position. They don’t have access to quality healthcare and need to figure it out for themselves.
While clinics like this are a temporary fix for problems that need government solutions, the fact that they exist can change lives. While the clinic can’t refer patients to affordable specialists or orthodontic treatment, it can catch early problems and fix them before they become issues that need to go to specialists. The students can also catch signs of smoking and nutritional issues during their exams. They can use this information to provide health and lifestyle advice to patients, again stopping problems before they become critical.
Free dental clinics are a way for underserved people to get treated with respect and dignity. Poor dental health is something that is very stigmatized in American culture. If someone has missing teeth, stereotypes are made about them that have nothing to do with dental health. And these stereotypes and biases can make an already difficult situation even more difficult. Getting the same health care that wealthier people receive improves their condition in at least one way. And that improvement can inspire more improvements, whether through self-confidence or a healthier body.
In a perfect world, these clinics wouldn’t exist. They wouldn’t have to. Everybody would have the same access to high-quality health care. But in reality, a lot of people are left behind by the healthcare system. So free dental clinics level the playing field and allow people access that they otherwise would never get.