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CHICAGO-- Cook County Commissioner Todd Stroger's call for 17% across-the-board cuts to the county budget will only deepen the health care crisis for Illinois families, the Chicago Dental Society (CDS) says.
Of particular concern to CDS are plans to eliminate all dental staff within the Department of Public Health and dental services at Stroger Hospital. The proposed budget calls for cutting $2.64 million in dental programs in 2007.
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. Only eight of the 24 community health clinics run by the county offered dental care in 2006.
Even before these budget cuts were announced, the county was already struggling to provide care to uninsured families, CDS President Dr. John Fredricksen says. If the county proceeds with these drastic cuts, where will these families go?
Existing safety-net centers throughout the county are already overburdened and Illinois Medicaid does not cover routine preventive dental care for adults. Over the last twelve years, Northwestern and Loyola Universities have closed their dental schools and hospital emergency rooms have cut dentists from their staff.
Without access to care, adults and children suffering from untreated dental disease may develop serious health problems. An infection that starts with a decaying tooth can turn into a life-threatening illness. A child with rampant cavities can lose their ability to speak properly or pay attention in school, due to the pain. Tooth decay is, in fact, the leading chronic illness among children.
Treating dental disease after it becomes a serious problem will cost the county many times over what an upfront investment in basic dental services would cost, Dr. Fredricksen says.
For example, when a patient with a diseased tooth visits a hospital emergency room to deal with the pain, the visit will cost the county at least $150-300, Dr. Fredricksen points out, Whereas a tooth extraction performed in a dental office will cost between $40-60.
The Chicago Dental Society urges the Cook County Board to develop a budget that will protect the health of the county's most vulnerable families.
We ask them to look at ways of maximizing the use of Medicaid, third-party payers and other funding sources so that the uninsured aren't left in the cold, Dr. Fredricksen says.
The Chicago Dental Society represents the interests of 4,200 dentists in metro Chicago and advocates for improving oral health care for all. Last year CDS donated $157,000 to dental care programs in the Chicago area. The society is the local branch of the American Dental Association and the Illinois State Dental Society.
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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