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Syracuse Only Has One Free Dental Clinic for Uninsured Patients — And It’s Not Nearly Enough

Gloved hand holding dental tool to teeth x-rayUpstate New York never gets as much attention as the City when something good happens, but as far as dental health goes, Central NYS is doing something right.

A small dental clinic in Syracuse, opened by Amaus Health Services in downtown Syracuse, is an interesting combination that involves two unlikely industries. The organization opened a medical clinic in 2007 for insured patients and has operated in conjunction with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Amaus Health Services, located in a parking lot next to the Cathedral rectory on E. Onondaga St., later opened the dental clinic in 2014 for patients without insurance. Since it opened just over a year ago, the clinic has provided free dental work to more than 175 patients.
Syracuse.com called Amaus “an oasis in a dental desert” for Upstate New Yorkers, and it’s the only dental clinic in the Syracuse area that provides free dental services to uninsured and low-income patients. The typical Amaus patient has enough to worry about besides dental health; these patients often include ex-convicts, low-wage workers, and elderly retirees who have lost their dental insurance plans.

Syracuse residents rarely receive assistance from the city for their dental needs, and the federal government doesn’t help, either. According to a recent article from the Buffalo News, many Americans are struggling to cover the cost of dental treatments because the Affordable Care Act didn’t address any oral or dental work. Already, an estimated 31% of American adults suffer from tooth decay and 8,000 deaths occur each year from oral cancers.

This isn’t a new problem at all; back in 2011, Business Insider reported that 26% of Americans lacked dental insurance policies. Although a recent Urban Institute survey found that this number has decreased to only 20%, the problem tends to manifest itself in specific communities and run rampant.

A city like Syracuse, which doesn’t have nearly enough dentists, leads to 67,000 residents without any dental care. With any luck, more clinics like Amaus will cover this need. Even if the federal government doesn’t importance of dental care, plenty of Amaus patients will agree that a healthy smile is invaluable.