Dentists say they are slammed due to TennCare benefits expansion

Champion Dentistry in Lebanon
Posted at 5:08 PM, Jan 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-09 21:23:00-05

LEBANON, Tenn. (WTVF) — Hundreds of thousands of people now have dental insurance for the first time in a long time. This means a slammed pipeline for care.

Allison Green has been busy taking phone calls at Champion Dentistry in Lebanon after state lawmakers approved millions in funding to expand dental benefits for those on TennCare.

"I’ve probably added at least 50 plus patients to my schedule," Green said.

When the news broke, Howard Allen was elated.

"I’m going to the dentist I’m going to get a new front tooth. I’m gonna be able to smile," Allen said.

Before this, a lot of people without dental insurance wouldn't go for toothaches.

“I brushed, I gargled with salt water, and then I prayed," Allen said.

Dr. Ken Witt at Champion Dentistry said catching gum disease early is important because it might keep patients out of the hospital.

"As the body has to control that just from a tooth infection, it’s hard on the heart, the circulatory system, the respiratory system, and certainly those people who are maybe in the realm of diabetics. That’s crucial for them," Dr. Witt said.

Now, 600,000 Tennesseans are now eligible, so Champion Dentistry may have to expand hours and hire more staff to accommodate demand.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen several cases today that are going to require several extractions, maybe things like root canals that people have heard and talked about, but we’ve seen the full gambit of things,” Witt said.

Green said she got into dentistry to help people, and they're doing just that.

"That’s one thing I’ve noticed when they come in here. They’re not smiling — none of them. They’re like 'I’m embarrassed, this is embarrassing.' And of course, we’re a no-judge zone here, so we see all sorts of mouths, and I just want everybody to be happy — to smile."

Green said some people told her they called 20 places a day to find an available appointment.

TennCare's dental insurance provider, DentaQuest, just expanded their search engine so people can see which dentists accept it.

To find a provider go here.

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