Free dentistry program opens for older New Hanover County adults

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – Applications are now open for a dental program for New Hanover County adults ages 55 and older who lack dental insurance and meet other eligibility requirements.

The Older Adult Dental Program includes a variety of services including exams, cleanings, fillings, x-rays, extractions, root canals, and dentures. Dental issues are known to be an underlying cause of other medical conditions; yet, they are sometimes ignored.

“When we look at the older adult population in our community who are in need of medical help from our hospital or other emergency providers, one of the glaring things we’ve noticed is that many of the physical health issues they’re facing either started or is being made worse by an underlying oral care problem that wasn’t addressed,” said Senior Resource Center Director Amber Smith. “By providing preventative care or responding to the oral issue early on, we have an opportunity to get them the help they need before it becomes something bigger.”

The program, which was approved by the NHC Board of Commissioners in December 2021, is jointly coordinated by the New Hanover County’s Senior Resource Center and the NHC Department of Health and Human Services and the services are available through a contract with Access Dental Health, Inc.

“Older adults have chronic diseases; oral health issues can absolutely effect those and worsen those and doctors appreciate when people who are older adults get oral care as well as other physical care,” said David Howard, New Hanover County Health Director.

“We’re very excited to be the first county in North Carolina with a free dentistry program focused solely on helping older adults,” said Howard. “This is a significant gap in access to services and a known underlying factor in older adult health and emotional well-being. We are grateful to the Commissioners for making this a priority. Healthy seniors with confident smiles fully engaged in our community is a significant public health benefit for all of New Hanover County.”

To be eligible, adults 55 and older must be resident in New Hanover County and be able to show proof of residency. Additionally, eligible adults must have an income below 200% of the poverty level and have no current dental insurance, including a Medicare Advantage plan.

Click here to apply online. Paper copies are also available at the New Hanover County Senior Resource Center at 2222 S. College Rd. Wilmington, and New Hanover County Health and Human Services at 1650 Greenfield St. Wilmington.

For more information, contact Debbie Lovett at 910-798-3774.

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