Friday, June 08, 2001

New dental clinic caters to homeless

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A new dental clinic focusing on care for the homeless has opened in Over-the-Rhine, pumping several hundred thousand dollars' worth of service into an underserved area of medical care.

        The McMicken Dental Clinic, 40 E. McMicken Ave., occupies part of a building owned by the FreeStore-FoodBank. The clinic opened May 4, but a grand opening is scheduled for today.

[photo] Dr. Judith Allen works on Curtis Woods' teeth at McMicken Dental Clinic.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        Few people realize how significant a lack of dental care can be for homeless and low-income people, said Larry Hill, director of the Greater Cincinnati Oral Health Council.

        The pain of untreated dental problems can lead to malnutrition, can interfere with attempts to kick drug and alcohol addictions, and can aggravate other health problems. Meanwhile, the appearance of bad teeth creates an obstacle for people trying to lift themselves up, Dr. Hill said.

        “Trying to get any kind of job with missing front teeth or damaged teeth is very difficult. People equate bad dental care with lower intelligence and laziness,” Dr. Hill said.

        Cincinnati already runs five dental clinics serving lower-income neighborhoods, but those services have a waiting list exceeding 4,000 people. And none of those clinics caters directly to an estimated 11,000 homeless people living in Hamilton County, Dr. Hill said.

        It took more than two years of planning to string the money together for the new clinic. A three-year, $672,000 federal grant will pay for staff. An additional $161,000 for renovations came from the Mayerson Foundation, the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

        The Cincinnati Health Department has donated equipment. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Dental Society has agreed to start a “Backyard Dental Mission” to supply volunteer dentists to augment the paid staff.

        “We have dentists going to Honduras and other Third World countries on dental missions,” Dr. Hill said. “Yet we have people living in Third World conditions right here in Cincinnati. So we thought, why not encourage dentists to do their mission work here?”


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