Many New Hampshire residents with disabilities or who are elderly or medically fragile suffer from serious dental problems because they cannot afford treatment. Many depend on government assistance for their health care; Medicare does not provide dental treatment and New Hampshire’s Medicaid program only covers emergency dental care for adults. Countless individuals suffer in agonizing pain from severely neglected dental problems and have no where to turn for help.
In 2000, the New Hampshire Dental Society (NHDS) endorsed developing a Donated Dental Services (DDS) program to help some of these neglected individuals. The New Hampshire Department of Health contracted with the NHDS to begin services in September 2002 and the Office of Health Planning and Medicaid had subsequently provided some of the operating funds to support the DDS program until this fiscal year. Services continue thanks to the on-going generosity of Northeast Delta Dental, the New Hampshire Dental Society, the Cogswell Benevolent Trust and the Norwin S. and Elizabeth N. Bean Foundation.
The DDS program wouldn’t be possible if not for the 145 dentists and 54 dental laboratories that volunteer their services. 55 of the volunteers statewide are specialists, leaving only 90 general dentists available for initial referrals. This fiscal year, the program enabled 91 individuals with special needs to access $263,386 worth of dental care. DDS received 55 new applications during the fiscal year, leaving a back-log total of 225 applicants who are waiting to receive care.
Ms. Jan Denson is the part-time DDS Coordinator, working 12 hours a week in office space donated by Northeast Delta Dental. Ms. Denson determines each applicant’s eligibility, links patients with nearby volunteer dentists, monitors each patient’s progress, arranges laboratory services and the help of specialists as necessary, and thanks the volunteers when they complete a case. Resolving problems that may interfere with care is, perhaps, her most important duty.