MADISON (WKOW) -- A low-income dental clinic is struggling to keep up with demand.
More than 90,000 people in Dane County are eligible for care at More Smiles Wisconsin.
Right now the non-profit is fighting to keep its doors open.
"In a lot of cases there's nowhere else for these patients to go," said executive director of More Smiles, Jeff Okazaki.
Hygienist Tara Zalesak says dental care can be life changing for these patients.
"I've had patients cry after treatment," Zalesak said.
Some patients haven't ever had dental care.
"They didn't know quite how to brush their teeth, they didn't know quite how to floss," Zalesak said.
Many of the patients More Smiles Wisconsin serves are on Medicaid.
"Wisconsin has one of the worst Medicaid reimbursements in the country and we see firsthand the effects of that in our community and right here in our clinic," Okazaki said.
According the Wisconsin Dental Association, reimbursement rates for adult dental care are fifth lowest in the country. The lack of reimbursement is why More Smiles Wisconsin is struggling.
The dental clinic emphasizes that bad oral health can spread to your general health.
"Things like heart disease and cancer and stroke and illnesses that you really wouldn't think about when you think about dental care is a huge portion of the way our oral health affects are bodies," said Okazaki.
Aside from the health benefits, Zalesak says people feel better after a cleaning.
"If you've had a recent cleaning your teeth feel great, they feel nice and smooth and you feel confident to go around smiling a big smile," said Zalesak.
More Smiles has two clinics, one in Madison and one in Fitchburg. Last year it helped more than 1,700 patients.
More Smiles estimates it needs about $100,000 a year to keep the two clinics going.
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