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My name is Dr. Allen Knox and I am here today on behalf of the Chicago Dental Society.
The Chicago Dental Society is an association of dentists living and working in the metro Chicago area. We count more than 4,200 dentists as our members.
I am here to express our collective concern about the proposal to eliminate dental services at Stroger Hospital and dental staff positions within the Cook County Department of Public Health. All told, the proposed budget cuts $2.64 million in dental services. We think these cuts are penny wise, pound foolish.
The question I ask of our board: Can the county really afford to let untreated dental problems among our uninsured turn into overall health problems?
Every year we gain new knowledge linking the health of the mouth to overall health. Recent studies have indicated that poor dental care can increase a person's risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke and may complicate existing health problems, like diabetes. Children with rampant cavities can develop speech and even learning problems.
By investing in dental services now, the county will save itself funds that will otherwise be spent to treat far more complicated and expensive ailments that can develop when dental disease is left untreated.
According to the Chicago Tribune, last year Stroger Hospital received more than 7,000 phone calls a month for the 777 dental appointments available monthly. Clearly, there is a huge demand for dental care in our county. Closing down the dental programs at the eight county clinics and at Stroger Hospital will push patients in pain to our hospital emergency rooms, where the cost for care is more expensive.
When a patient with a diseased tooth visits a hospital emergency room, the visit will cost the county at least $150-300. A tooth extraction performed in a dental office or clinic will cost between $40-60.
Furthermore, the county cannot depend on our tattered safety net of clinics to provide dental services.
Through our charitable giving program, we provide financial support to local clinics and community programs. And through that work, we have seen firsthand how overburdened these clinics are. Patients with less urgent but still serious dental problems often have to wait months to get an appointment at the few clinics available, if they are able to get an appointment at all.
We urge the Cook County Board to consider these facts and to develop a budget that will protect the health of the county's most vulnerable families.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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