For nearly two decades, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) clinic has provided affordable treatment to thousands of homeless patients through ongoing grant support from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMD). Now, the clinic will be able to extend its treatment to Medicare recipients in addition to the uninsured thanks to a five-year, $828,300 grant from the DHMD.
Medicare, which targets Americans age 65 and older, includes many recipients with unmet oral health needs, according to Douglas Barnes, DDS, a professor with the AEGD program. In Maryland, Medicare recipients must purchase separate dental insurance plans through Medicare Advantage, which typically only covers routine care. For the population of elderly patients in assisted living, though, oral health problems are often more complex.
“For those who are in nursing homes, the teeth often come last,” said Barnes, who also was the principal investigator of the grant. “This grant will allow us to provide treatment for elderly patients who don’t qualify for public assistance but also don’t have dental insurance. The definition of who we can treat is expanding, and the elderly will benefit.”
Seeing a wider range of patients also will provide additional opportunities for valuable experience for the UMSOD residents and a group of senior dental students who have been named Diamond Scholars, according to Barnes. The Diamond Scholars Program offers the highest achieving pre-doctoral senior students an opportunity to work alongside AEGD residents to perform more advanced dental treatments.
“Patients in the AEGD clinic have unique challenges that aren’t normally served in pre-doctoral clinic, and the elderly present specific issues in terms of reduced ability to do homecare, complex medical issues, and inability to eat due to tooth loss,” said Barnes. “Working with this population gives our Diamond Scholars the opportunity to develop into excellent, well-rounded clinicians.”