Free clinic offers dental care to Northern NY families in need

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) Health care can be expensive and our Kelly O'Brien found out many people in New York's North Country go without dental care. She takes a closer look at the challenges and solutions.

Dental care can be the root of a lot of health problems. For the second year, folks in our region are getting free work done and it's a service they hope continues

"Dental care is a luxury to many families in our region," said John Bernardi of the United Way ADK.

The 2018 Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed Report-- known as ALICE-- shows about one-third of North Country residents are living on a limited income. Folks are employed, some working two or three jobs, but their funds are low and they need to cut things out of their budget, including health care costs.

"Dental care is one of those things that often get overlooked by working families that are struggling to make ends meet," Bernardi said.

Because of those numbers, New York University's College of Dentistry and UnitedHealthcare have stepped up for the second year, offering free dental work to those who need it in in our region

"Fillings, extractions, root canals," said Rachel Laureyns of the NYU College of Dentistry.

Last year, the free clinic saw close to 500 patients and performed 1,000 procedures. The patients said the cost was the main reason they couldn't get to a dentist. Other problems included transportation issues, finding a dentist that was in their network and took their insurance, or they were put on a waiting list.

This is a free service to anyone, with any income, and with insurance or not.

"There is no out-of-pocket cost, no copays," Laureyns said.

"There's people coming from all over the region; they're traveling for this," Bernardi said.

People like Chuck Lavery, who drove in from Ray Brook.

"I need a few extractions. I'm trying to rebuild my smile." Lavery said.

Like others, Lavery sees the importance of what dental health means to overall health.

"It starts there in your mouth," he said.

"We encourage people to take care of their mouth the same way, routinely, they would care of their overall health because those two things are sort of... linked," Laureyns said.

The dental delegates say the numbers aren't what's important as long as people are taking advantage of the free dental care.

"We try to provide complete care for people, we try to get them to a state where it's much easier for them to maintain their oral health with normal at-home prevention," Laureyns said.

"I really appreciate their efforts to come up here and help us out," Lavery said.

They do encourage people to find a local dentist if they can and stress the importance of going in for a checkup once a year but this service will continue this Wednesday and Thursday.

So far, they have helped over 140 North Country patients.

The clinic runs Sept. 28-Oct. 3 at the West Side Ballroom at 253 New York Rd. in Plattsburgh.
Sept. 28 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sept. 29 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sept. 30 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Oct. 2 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Oct. 3 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Patients are seen on a first-come, first-served, walk-in basis. Be prepared to wait.