IRVING -- Dora Fernandez, a stay-at-home mother of four admits, in the past, she waited far too long to see a dentist.
"Because I didn't have that much money to spend on the dentist," she said.
Thousands of patients like her, without dental insurance or a regular dentist, end up in the Baylor Irving emergency room across the street. They often need charity care.
"Well over 10 percent - 8,000 of them - are coming to us with dental pain," said John Drake, president of the Irving Healthcare Foundation, "and there's very little we can do for them. We try to get them out of pain, but we need a solution. And this is part of the solution."
This is the Irving Community Clinic.
Thanks to a partnership that started this summer between Baylor and Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, dental students are now providing low-cost or free care full-time here. Patients who can pay are charged just $10 a visit.
More than 100 million Americans have no dental insurance, costing taxpayers $64 billion each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And while dental coverage is an essential health benefit for children under the Affordable Care Act, it is not part of guaranteed coverage for adults.
The hope is that the Irving Community Clinic will see 2,500 otherwise under-served or uninsured patients this year. Many have serious medical conditions that predispose them to expensive dental diseases.
"A lot of our diabetic patients have gum disease, and gum disease in turn can lead to tooth loss in most severe cases, if they're not taken care of ahead of time," Dr. Vanessa Williams said.
All of the care is provided through donations to the Irving Healthcare Foundation. The foundation hopes to begin treating children this year.
"We could add two more chairs and begin seeing kids," Drake said. "Our challenge is we just need to raise the $240,000 that we need."
So while Dora Fernandez may lose a cracked tooth, the procedure at the clinic won't cost her – or, eventually, taxpayers - an arm and a leg.
Below is a list of three local clinics staffed by the A&M Baylor College of Dentistry:
Irving Community Clinic
- 1302 Lane St., Irving
Healing hands Ministries
- 8515 Greenville Ave, suite N-108, Dallas
North Dallas Shared Ministries
- 2875 Merrell Rd, Dallas