Big free dental clinic 'a godsend' as scores of patients line up

2012-06-29T20:00:00Z 2013-02-12T06:03:15Z Big free dental clinic 'a godsend' as scores of patients line upDAVID WAHLBERG | Wisconsin State Journal | dwahlberg@madison.com | 608-252-6125 madison.com

Denise Atkinson came to the Alliant Energy Center at 2:30 a.m. Friday with a toothache.

She was the 297th person in line when the doors opened three hours later for a massive free clinic run by the Wisconsin Dental Association.

Volunteer dentists pulled her tooth, which had been painful for a year and a half after a filling fell out and exposed the root.

"This is a godsend," said the 57-year-old unemployed woman from Footville, west of Janesville. "Dentists are expensive. I was going to go until I just couldn't take it anymore."

More than 1,500 patients were treated Friday, and another 1,500 or more are expected to be helped Saturday.

"A lot of dentists do a lot of charity work, but you usually don't see it," said Tim Kinzel, a dentist at Children's Dental Center of Madison who was volunteering Friday.

The dental association's fourth annual Mission of Mercy clinic, held for the first time in Madison, transformed the Alliant Center into a dental encampment, with stations for triage, X-rays, extractions, fillings, partial dentures, cleanings and patient education. Children and Special Olympians had separate areas.

Patients lined up outside the convention center and sat inside on folding chairs waiting to have their dental pain eased or get their teeth cleaned. The dental association says it will provide an estimated $1.75 million in free care over the two days.

Danielle Mizialko figures her three sons, ages 5 to 13, received $3,000 worth of care Friday.

Her husband works full time, and she home schools the boys. The family, from Walworth, east of Beloit, doesn't have dental insurance and pays out of pocket for dental care.

When Mizialko took her sons to the dentist this month for regular check-ups costing a total of $600, the dentist found the boys had seven cavities needing fillings, two spots needing sealants and a broken tooth. The estimated cost: $3,000.

On Friday, the volunteer dentists took care of it all.

"I would have had to save a year to make that happen," Mizialko said.

Marc Simpson traveled from his home in Milwaukee to get a root canal. He'd been filling a hole in his tooth with temporary material he got at a drug store.

When he arrived at 4:45 a.m., he was patient No. 678.

Later, he glanced around the convention center at the hundreds of people waiting for or receiving treatment.

"A lot of people need dental care," he said. "This really helps."

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(11) Comments

  1. Badger Pete
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    Badger Pete - June 30, 2012 4:36 pm
    Possumtale, dental school and medical school are the same length -- four years. A general practice MD has spent the same number of years in school as a general practice dentist. Dental specialties require roughly the same additional education as medical specialties.

    The problem cannot be solved by every dentist taking a couple patients per year. If it was this easy to solve the problem, it would have been solved years ago. Your comments about the Wisconsin Dental Association reflect abject ignorance!
  2. ttt3
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    ttt3 - June 30, 2012 11:33 am
    Is there any criteria (income, insurance coverage, etc) as to who gets the free dental care and who doesn't? I'm just worried that people that can probably afford to have treatment done at a typical dentisit office will just show up to this free session to "save some money."
  3. possumtale
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    possumtale - June 30, 2012 10:33 am
    NIce thought, but there are ZERO dentists accepting MA patients in South Central Wisconsin.
  4. possumtale
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    possumtale - June 30, 2012 10:31 am
    Pete - Your analogy is way off base. If every dentist in Dane Co. took two or three Medicaid patients, there would be no problem. Two or three patients at $0.35 on the dollar is not going to make a dent in any dentists practice. They are doing quite well for a profession that requires half the schooling and is far less demanding than a pediatrician or general practitioner, but pays just as well or better. The problem is that the Wisconsin Dental Association (WPA) has encouraged dentists to refuse MA patients so that they can be in a better position to pressure the legislature to raise the reimbursement rates. The WPA feeds them all sorts of talking points (the MA paperwork is WAY too cumbersome was the line in the late 1990s) to deflect criticism from the dental profession. Should reimbursement be higher? Sure, they could. But this problem existed at the same level even when reimbursement was $0.60 on the dollar. Other states that actually tried raising reimbursement rates higher, didn't see dentists increase their number of MA patients.
    Two or three patients, is not the same as doing an entire road project at half the cost to the builder. It's more like donating 1/100th of a project.
  5. suearl
    Report Abuse
    suearl - June 30, 2012 10:10 am
    Those of you who care- ask your dentist if they help with Badger Care AND other donated services. Give your business to those who help the community-substantially.
  6. suearl
    Report Abuse
    suearl - June 30, 2012 10:08 am
    Get off of it. I was there helping and the person who got a large filling and cleaning got up at the end and said she was labeled a chronic protester and was soon going to visit a friend in Vermont because they have a clinic that does free crowns.
    Some need help and some live off of others.
  7. ST20
    Report Abuse
    ST20 - June 30, 2012 9:35 am
    Rosalie; Jealousy and envy befits liberals who hate those that succeed.
  8. Rosalie
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    Rosalie - June 30, 2012 12:30 am
    Thanks to those doctors who did take part in the free clinic. I recall the time I saw my dentist driving a new Lincoln Continental - maybe he didn't take Medicaid patients.
  9. Badger Pete
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    Badger Pete - June 29, 2012 5:34 pm
    Harvey, the problem isn't Medicaid expansion. The problem is the low reimbursement rate paid to dentists. The state pays roughly 35 cents on the dollar and the dentist's cost (office rent or mortgage payment, salaries to staff, and items consumed in delivering the care) runs about 70 cents on the dollar. You can't provide care to Medicaid patients if you are only paid half of your cost in delivering the care. We don't expect road builders to work for half their cost but somehow we expects the dentists to do it? This isn't a recent problem -- it goes back at least to when Lee Dreyfus was Governor.
  10. lloll
    Report Abuse
    lloll - June 29, 2012 4:05 pm
    This is a very nice thing but...

    The lady with the 3 kids need to reconsider how she's feeding her kids. The number of fillings is ridiculous.
  11. Harvey
    Report Abuse
    Harvey - June 29, 2012 3:22 pm
    And Walker is going to refuse to implement Medicade expansion. How special.

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