Law to make dental care more affordable and accessible - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Law to make dental care more affordable and accessible

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WILLIAMSON CO., Ill. -- The Action for Dental Health Act, which is aimed at improving access to oral health care nationwide, is now law.

Experts say it opens the door for federal grant money to provide more affordable care in rural areas. With nearly half the students in Illinois public schools considered low income, it's no surprise dental health is lacking.

"80 to 90 percent of our patients are on the state medical card, and in rural southern Illinois, they may have to drive an hour plus to find a provider that accepts the state medical card," said Mark Morley with Dental Safari. 

Morley says that's why he and his wife started Dental Safari, a mobile dental company that takes the care to the students. He says there's a definite need for more affordable and accessible dental care, which is why he's hopeful this new law will help Southern Illinois families. 

"This is a really good thing, because even though we take our services to these rural areas and see these patients, we can't see them all," said Morley. 

But the law isn't just aimed at helping children, it's for helping adults too, especially seniors. Experts say 17 percent of Illinois adults over the age of 65 have lost all of their natural teeth due to tooth decay. Their reasons for not visiting the dentist more were high cost and inconvenient location. 

Medicare doesn't cover most routine dental care like cleanings, fillings, or tooth extractions.

In 2019, Illinois will start requiring dental exams before students head into the 9th grade. That means students will have to at least make four mandatory trips to a dentist before entering high school.

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