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Dentists Want to Expand Access to Care
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Members of the Connecticut State Dental Association are assessing the impact of the state's largest ever free dental clinic. And they are looking for a more permanent solution.

This month's Mission of Mercy, a two-day free dental clinic, exceeded expectations.  More than 1,100 people received nearly half a million dollars of dental care.  After a few hours, organizers had to turn people away.

Carol Dingeldey is the executive director of the Connecticut State Dental Association.  She says more than one million Connecticut residents go without care, so a free clinic is not the solution for increasing access.

"It's not going to meet everybody's needs.  We're not going to reach everyone in  the state who needs it.  But we're certainly going to be present and continue provide service to those who need it."

Dingeldey says it took fourteen years of advocacy from her organization to increase the dental reimbursement rate under the state-sponsored health plan for children.  Her group will now work towards increasing adult access to dental care, especially because oral health is connected to other issues like diabetes and heart disease.

State Senate President Pro Tem, Donald Williams arrived at the dental clinic in the pre-dawn hours.  He says that the lines were out the door in the pouring rain and by 5:30 in the morning, the parking lot was jammed.   Williams says the state needs to take a whole body approach to health care.

"I want to make sure that dental access just as  with mental health access is part of the overall dialogue for health care access.  Obviously, if you have a debilitating dental problem you're in trouble."

Williams says legislation passed last year created two health care authorities. Those agencies will make recommendations on how to increase health care access including dental care by the end of this calendar year.