Source: Wicked Local

By Catherine Buday


The problem:
Health experts say that seniors, squeezed by limited budgets and declining dental coverage, often neglect their teeth. “What I’ve been hearing is that people haven’t been to the dentist in years, mainly because of the high cost of care,” said Nancy Fernandez, a nurse for Marlborough’s Council on Aging. “Many do everything else for the rest of their bodies, but the teeth are the last thing.” 

Michael Henry of the Massachusetts Dental Society sees the same problem. “Many say, ‘why should I spend $5,000 to get dental work done when I might die tomorrow?,’” he says. “They would rather leave the money to their kids. They don’t realize that it lowers their quality of life if they can’t chew properly or if their mouth gets infected.”

One solution:
Early this month, the Massachusetts Dental Society van brought free dental care to the Marlborough Senior Center. The van traditionally serves disadvantaged children and only recently expanded its services to seniors in Marlborough, Waltham and Natick. On March 6, 14 Marlborough seniors received free checkups and screenings for oral cancer and other problems from dentists John Giordano, of Worcester, and Linda Drennen, of Milford. A grant from the Marlborough-based office of Boston Scientific helped pay for the visit.
“We’re seeing things like broken fillings or crowns that they’ve had for a long time,” said Dr. Giordano. “Seniors need professional cleanings at least every six months, or there can be problems with gum bleeding and other issues.”

What’s next:
The dental van will return to Marlborough on April 10. Marlborough seniors can call Nancy Fernandez at 508-485-6492, Ext. 15 to sign up. “It’s a great way for seniors with low income to get free cleanings, oral cancer screenings and a referral to local dentists for other issues,” Fernandez said.
“Our ultimate goal,” said Henry, “is to find them a dental ‘home’ within their community, either with a dentist who takes Mass Health (the state-run program for those who can’t afford health insurance) or with a dentist who does pro-bono work for the community.” According to Henry, the Dental Society has a network of dentists who will provide care for free for some patients who can’t afford it.