Dental care is a luxury many Americans can’t afford.
That is, within our own borders.
As he awaits a court decision on a workers compensation case, Linn Doane of Mesa gets his dental treatment in Mexico.
Until he qualifies for dental benefits again, each threehour drive to the border near Yuma is worth it, Doane said.
He admits to being apprehensive the first time he sought care for a cavity about eight months ago. Once over the border, he asked other Americans to recommend a dentist, and the one he visits has worked in the same location for nearly 20 years.
"I was more than happy with the work I’ve had done, and the prices are incredible," said Doane, whose wife, Diana, also joined him to get some cavities filled.
Prices for procedures such as root canals are markedly lower than even a half-price estimate he received from a local dentist, Doane said. Although satisfied with the care and prices in Mexico, he plans to visit U.S. dentists once he gets his benefits back.
"I don’t think the quality of care is better in Mexico, but it’s 100percent because of money," he said.
Local options do exist for discounted or donated dental treatment. Many programs emphasize services for children, but adults can also find help.
Arizona Committed To Improving Oral Health Needs, known as ACTION, has recruited about 100 dentists statewide — including 55 in Maricopa County — to volunteer time toward assisting those without insurance.
To qualify for service, families must apply and meet income requirements. Once treatment is complete, they’re done with the program.
"Generally the goal is to bring the individual up to good oral health," said Jennifer Garcia, grant coordinator for the program.
"We’re an extensive needs program. If all they needed was a checkup, then we would recommend other resources."
Shashi Kapur, a pediatric dentist based in Chandler, will provide treatment Monday for 15 low-income and uninsured students from the Tempe Elementary School District. Kapur’s role in the dental program made the connection possible, and for years he has donated one day a month to children.
"I know what I do is miniscule to the need, but I do my best," Kapur said. "I’m delighted that I can provide some help and give their parents some feedback."
Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, known as AHCCCS, plays a vital role in finding dental help for lowincome residents who qualify.
Some adults may find limitations with AHCCCS for their own needs. Others look for deals on dental coverage.
Nancy Ray of Mesa has coverage that will pay half of her dental costs. However, her son Kenneth Lewis, 44, lacks dental coverage and faces a small fortune. He needs several crowns at a cost that adds up quick.
"You don’t want a free handout," Ray said. "You just want it to be reasonable so the average person can afford dental."
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