Filling the cavity of rural dentists

For many people, especially children, finding an affordable dentist is becoming more difficult.

While it may not be a load of fun visiting the dentist, it is important.

Dental checkups can find other health problems you may not know you have.

For many people, especially children, finding an affordable dentist is becoming more difficult.

Dr. Tina Stoner says she grew up poor in Kahoka, Missouri. She says she never saw a dentist until she was an adult. Luckily she didn't have any problems, but she says a lot of things have changed including more sugar in our diets.

"I think I probably got off lucky compared to what I see now," Dr. Stoner said.

Something else Dr. Stoner sees now is alarming. The lack of dental access in rural areas, especially for children. In Illinois, more than 45 percent of kids on Medicaid don't see a dentist.

"That's awful. That's absolutely horrendous," Dr. Stoner said.

Families without insurance think going to the dentist is not an option, but that's not the case. As long as you can find the right type of facility where you live. In Adams County, the Health Department has a full time, full-service dental clinic.

"Part of the problem is just getting the information out there that we do have this dental clinic for our residents. A lot of times people have the misconception that they don't think they qualify, and they bring their paperwork in and look at the process, and they are eligible for services." Shay Drummond with the Health Department said.

The Health Department already has an outreach program where they bus 150 kids to the clinic once a year. Staff here at the dental clinic say that's better than nothing.

"The other issues are lack of dental staff, or lack of trained dentists that are willing to come into the rural areas," Drummond added.

Things may change in 2014 when more of the Affordable Care Act takes effect. States are expanding Medicaid meaning millions of children will be eligible for dental care. More access to dental care also keeps healthcare costs low. According to a report from the Pew Research Center, in 2009 more than 830 thousand Americans were treated in emergency rooms for toothaches and other dental problems that could've been prevented.

The Adams County Dental Clinic recently got a grant from the state of Illinois to go into the schools to do dental sealant and fluoride treatments for students.

The clinic will start with a couple of schools in Quincy, and then eventually expand the program out into the county.