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Pulaski Residents Are All Smiles Thanks to Dental Program

Christiansburg, Va. - Like many Americans, a number of residents at CHP’s Bluegrass Community Apartments in Pulaski, Virginia are without adequate dental insurance coverage and find a visit to the dentist’s office is beyond their budget.

In fact, a report released earlier this year by the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging indicates that more than 130 million Americans do not have dental insurance and in many cases are unable to pay for the out of pocket cost of paying for a dental check-up. And the low-income and disabled residents of Bluegrass Community Apartments represent a segment of the population that is particularly vulnerable to rising dental-care and insurance costs. 

According to CHP Resident Services Coordinator Tiffany Slusher, many Bluegrass Apartment residents such as Jamie Bell have neglected their teeth because they simply could not afford proper dental care. “It’s not that they don’t care about their teeth,” Slusher explained. “In most cases, they just have not had the money or access to dental caregivers. They have suffered from chronic mouth pain, gum problems, dental disease, and tooth loss because they could not find affordable dental care for themselves.”

Fortunately, help is only 30 miles away through Wytheville Community College’s dental hygiene program, and it is free to Bluegrass residents. There, patients have access to teeth cleaning and X-ray services from dental hygiene students and may be referred to other local general service providers for further dental care. Wytheville Community College offers these services to CHP at a 50 percent discount, with the balance of the cost covered by a generous grant from the Community Foundation for the New River Valley. Funding from this foundation, totaling over $9,500 since March 2006, also helps Bluegrass residents pay for extractions, fillings, oral surgery, dentures, and gum treatments at a relatively low cost.

Bell, who endured the discomfort of numerous cavities because he could not afford to have them treated, learned of the dental program from the resident services staff at Bluegrass Community Apartments. “Pushing aside my phobias and fear of dentists…I took advantage of this opportunity and had five fillings done. I desperately needed this, as it has been literally years since I have had the money available to even get a checkup. I had resigned myself to just forgetting about it and waiting until the inevitable, which would have been losing my teeth,” said Bell. “I am grateful for [the dental assistance]...which has had a huge impact in my life. When a person loses their teeth, they can feel self conscious and stop talking as much as they used to. They can stop smiling or start covering their mouth with their hand when they laugh. I have seen people do this and…it is clearly very sad for that individual,” added Bell.