Volunteers will take braces off abandoned Medicaid patients

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by BYRON HARRIS

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WFAA

Posted on December 21, 2012 at 11:32 PM

Roderick Williams, 11, got his braces more than two years ago. When we met him, all that remained were brackets. His wires were broken. His orthodontist was out of business.

His mom, Denecia Williams, was at a loss.

"Now what do I do?" she said. "And it's been a hassle ever since."

Like hundreds of other Texas kids,  Roderick was stuck without anyone else to remove what was still left in his mouth. Now there is.

A group called ProOrtho For Kids is volunteering to take braces off Medicaid children who no longer have care at no charge.

"There's a significant population of kids out there who have braces on, who have not had supervision for a long time," said Dr. Ben Burris, who had the idea. "That's tantamount to encouraging gum diseases and tooth decay."

ProOrtho For Kids, which is not a commercial group, is signing up orthodontists to volunteer their time in several big cities across the state. Twenty doctors in eight cities have signed up so far.

Kids could go into an office where an orthodontist would simply remove braces that have been neglected. Then they'd be referred to a Medicaid dentist for further treatment.

"Our goal is to get these kids to a Medicaid dentist for a proper cleaning, x-rays, and whatever they need, which they can't really do with braces on," Burris said.

Medicaid kids are supposed to have what's called a "dental home," meaning a dentist they set up through their Medicaid insurance provider through the State of Texas. That program began in March.

The problem is, some parents last contact with a dentist was through an orthodontist, who is no longer in business. So they don't know who their dental plan is with.

Denicia Williams and other parents who've contacted News 8 have been ignored by their former orthodontists, if there's even anyone in the office.

"I'm like, 'Okay, why wasn't I contacted, or are you outsourcing or referring anybody?'" Ms. Williams said. "And they say, 'No, not at this time.'"

Roderick finally got his brackets taken off for free by a dentist three days ago.

Now other children will have the same chance. Their parents will have to sign a form which releases the volunteer dentist from liability.

When the job is done, the volunteer will help the children get back into the Medicaid system, find their provider, and establish a dental home.

"We'll take the brackets off," Dr. Burris said. "We'll find a dental home to help you get the cleanings and fillings that you need."

The Texas Association of Orthodontists is supporting the program. ProOrtho For Kids has a growing list of locations and orthodontists on its website.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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