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Permanent link  CDS and its foundation provide testimony to Illinois Division of Oral Health


In March, Chicago Dental Society provided testimony to the Illinois Division of Oral Health, which was conducting a statewide listening tour of oral health advocates. The information provided during the listening tour will become part of the state's oral health plan.

Chicago Dental Society and its foundation have three chief concerns regarding access to dental care in Illinois.

The first is the state of the government-funded clinics. Statistics CDS has available for the metro Chicago area include these facts: 

  • The dental safety net in Chicago includes 66 dental clinics that provide care for 753,281 Medicaid enrollees. That is one clinic for every 11,400 patients.
  • The Cook County Department of Public Health served close to 11,900 dental patients in 2000; in 2009, it treated fewer than 5,000.
  • In 2007, Cook County closed half of its county-run dental clinics, which now number four instead of eight. The City of Chicago, meanwhile, has closed all of its city-run dental clinics since 2004 and now has zero dental-clinic capacity.
  • Stroger Hospital has cut its dental operatories by 50 percent and now offers only emergency oral surgery; it fields approximately 400 requests a day for just 35 daily appointments that fill up in approximately 15 minutes every morning.
  • The dental safety net in Chicago and Cook County is equally undersized. And it’s only getting smaller.
  • As a public service, CDS compiled a list of safety-net dental clinics in Chicago and Cook, Lake and DuPage counties in 2006. That list included 44 clinics of various types, 24 of which were located in the city of Chicago. Five years later, in 2011, just 32 of those clinics — 18 of them in Chicago — were still open, and several lacked a dentist.
  • Although longitudinal data are not available, the Chicago Community Oral Health Forum (CCOHF) conducted a more comprehensive analysis of Chicago’s dental clinic supply in 2011. It found 66 safety-net dental clinics in Chicago that provided care for the city’s 753,281 Medicaid enrollees, or one clinic for every 11,400 enrollees.
  • At the county level, the Illinois State Dental Society (ISDS) reports through its Bridge to Healthy Smiles initiative that:
  • More than 1.4 million Cook County residents are registered for government health care (i.e., Medicaid), which is equal to nearly half of the state’s public aid population — making access to care “among the worst in Illinois.”
  • There is just one dental clinic in Cook County for every 15,700 uninsured children.
  • The Cook County Department of Public Health served close to 11,900 dental patients in 2000; in 2009, it treated fewer than 5,000.
  • Local public health agencies: In 2006, just eight of the 24 community health clinics run by the Cook County Department of Public Health offered dental care. In 2007, the county closed half of those clinics — in Markham, Robbins, Skokie and South Holland, Ill. — leaving only four surviving dental clinics — in Ford Heights, Maywood, Bridgeview and Rolling Meadows, Ill.,11 none of which accepts public aid patients — in addition to the county’s main dental office at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital.

Our second concern is Medicaid reimbursement levels for dental care. The state of Illinois made strides in recent years to increase levels for children’s preventative care, and we have seen an attendant increase in the numbers of dentists treating Medicaid-enrolled children.

However, Gov. Pat Quinn has signaled that he plans to cut Medicaid spending, and we are very concerned that we preserve current levels or risk devastating access to dental care for children.

Our third concern is the lack of dental leadership within government agencies. We are heartened to have Dr. David Miller as the state’s dental director, but want to see similar positions filled in metro and county governments with a dentist at the helm. In particular, the Chicago Dental Society’s Government Affairs Committee has been advocating that a dentist be hired as the Cook County Dental Director so that there is an advocate for dentistry within the county health system.

In terms of what the society would like to see Illinois Department of Public Health’s Division of Oral Health take the lead on oral health literacy. Messages such as, “You can’t be healthy without a healthy mouth” need to be reinforced across a variety of media, as dental services are too often considered inessential.

We would also like to see the Division of Oral Health facilitate corporate-not-for-profit partnerships to provide greater access to dental care. As an example, the Chicago Dental Society Foundation is in the planning stages to open a dental clinic DuPage County. Having a forum for pursuing greater financial support for this project would be incredibly helpful.


access to care , medicaid , state of illinois ,