Dental Care

Jessica Hill / AP

Two dental clinics in northern Pennsylvania have reduced hours due to the instability of federal funding.

Keystone Rural Health Consortia operates the clinics in Elk and Cameron counties. The Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers said KRHC is one of 50 community health centers in the state.

ERIKA BERAS / 90.5 WESA

Community health clinics in Pennsylvania say they are on the verge of crisis. 

Congress has yet to reauthorize federal health center grant funding to Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs, which provide primary, dental, behavioral and substance abuse services to people with limited access to care. The Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers said this money comprises roughly 13 percent of the total revenue for FQHCs in the commonwealth.

Jessica Stefonik is grinning. She's got a bounce in her step. Her cheeks are a little puffy and her speech is a bit thick.

"It feels weird right now, but I'll get used to it," she says.

What she's trying to get used to is the feeling of having teeth.

On the day we met, Stefonik, a mom of three from Mosinee, Wis., got a set of dentures to replace all of her upper teeth, which she lost over many years to disease and decay.

Stefonik is just 31 years old.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Patients of all stripes leaned back in rows of dental chairs on the main floor of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center early Friday for free procedures ranging from walk-in cleanings to root canals and extractions.

According to a Pew report, too many Pennsylvania children are developing cavities and dental-related issues, but this is not mom and dad’s fault.

The Pew Children’s Dental Campaign report assessing states on how well they are providing children access to dental care showed that 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s population is under-served and living in a dental “shortage area.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports about 45 million Americans live in regions that do not have enough dentists to serve the population.