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U of U grinning to provide Medicaid-friendly dental services in Ogden

By Deborah Wilber - | Oct 1, 2022
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This undated photo shows a patient receiving services at the University of Utah Dental Clinic in Ogden.
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In this undated photo, a group poses during a summer barbecue at the University of Utah's dental clinic in Ogden.

OGDEN — Medicaid-friendly dental services in Ogden are back in full swing with 2,000 patients having been seen at the University of Utah dental clinic in Ogden since the facility opened 10 months ago.

The dental clinic, formally Family Dental, was well established in the community, offering services at little to no cost.

While it is unknown why the state-run Family Dental closed, Jeri Bullock, associate dean for clinical affairs at the University of Utah School of Dentistry, said she believes it may have been tied to finances, as that would be the only reason she could see the state closing a clinic so valuable to members of the community.

The university retained most former staff of Family Dental. “There were amazing dentists there already, so it made sense to keep them on,” Bullock said.

According to Bullock, there was a lack of Medicaid-approved dental care in Ogden. It took about a year for the university to renovate the facility before it was up and running, and people were eager to get back in with their providers, Bullock said.

Geoffrey Fattah, associate director of marketing and communication with the university, said feedback from the community was positive with the clinic offering a full array of services similar to those of a private practice.

“We can help people who may not otherwise get dental care,” Bullock said.

Generally, for adult Medicaid, there is a comprehensive plan, with little to no out-of-pocket cost, Bullock said. However, some services may not be not covered. For a list of services covered, visit medicaid.utah.gov.

Over 50% of patients at the clinic receive adult dental Medicaid benefits.

Veterans may receive care at the clinic by referral through the Veterans Affairs health care system. Bullock said the clinic does not currently participate in the Smiles For Veterans program established in 2016 identifying veterans as an underserved population in terms of dental care.

The program provides dental resources to veterans at no cost with grant money. According to Bullock, the U of U Greenwood Dental Clinic in Midvale is the only university clinic participating in the SFV program.

Bullock said the university is communicating with the VA to expand services offered.

“We’re focused on making sure people have access to care,” Fattah said.

After being closed for a year, Fattah said the university did some targeted advertising with the Utah Department of Health to let the community know the Medicaid-friendly dental services had returned.

According to Bullock, financial barriers are a big problem, especially for rural patients with fewer options. She said the university understands oral care can be expensive without insurance and they want to help people as much as they can.

Oral care is extremely important, Bullock said, referencing research into how the mouth affects the rest of the body. A lot of links have been found between mouth diseases and chronic, systemic diseases, she added.

“It’s the worst thing in the world to have a toothache and no place to go for it,” Bullock said.

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