Relief is on the way for those with a killer toothache but have no dental insurance and end up at the hospital’s emergency room with nowhere else to go.
“Right now we struggle to get a dentist to help address the tooth with a dental abscess beyond what we would normally think of now,” said Dr. Chuck Morrow, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System’s chief medical officer and vice president for medical affairs.
Spartanburg Regional and Dr. Michael McCracken, a dentist with an Alabama dental residency clinic, have teamed up to open the Spartanburg Community Dental Center.
McCracken is a professor at the University of Alabama School of Dentistry and executive director of the Foundry Dental Center in Bessemer, Ala.
“This is such an unmet need in our area,” Morrow said. “There are so many people we see with poor oral health. This clinic will be a good referral for us for uninsured patients and get to see them quickly.”
The Spartanburg Community Dental Center will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the former AccessHealth Spartanburg facility at 631 N. Church St.
The facility was renovated with a $285,000 grant from the Spartanburg Regional Foundation Board of Trustees.
AccessHealth moved to a new location on Howard Street, near the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The dental center is the result of the community’s Road to Better Health partnership whose Adult Oral Health Taskforce in 2019 identified increased access to oral health care as an urgent need in Spartanburg and surrounding counties.
Data showed that in 2015, 2,667 visits were made to the hospital’s emergency center for dental conditions, and that over half of the visits were self-pay or indigent.
Studies showed that those without a dentist may live with tooth pain for months or years. Also, poor hygiene can also be socially stigmatizing and is often a barrier to finding a job.
Further, periodontal disease is linked to a wide range of other health problems, such as cancer and cardiovascular complications. Patients may need to be treated for dental infections before they can begin chemotherapy or undergo heart procedures.
Morrow said the dental center will work with Spartanburg Regional physicians who refer patients for dental treatment.
The center will be staffed with resident dentists who continue their learning after graduation before setting up or joining a practice, according to Dr. Phil Feisal, president of Spartanburg Medical Center.
“There has been a longstanding need to improve access to dental care services for the underserved and underinsured in our community,” Feisal said. “This newly created (center) not only meets that need, but it provides a teaching service through a dental residency program, training additional dentists in our community.”
Patients are uninsured, and will only pay a nominal fee, Morrow said.
A sign on the door of the dental center advises patients to call 864-308-1355.
Meanwhile, AccessHealth Spartanburg is operating at its new office at 501 Howard St., Suite B, in the city’s Northside. AccessHealth serves the area’s low-income and uninsured population.