Moda Health is working to address shortfalls in rural access to dental care with the opening of Arrow Dental in Hermiston.
The clinic is focused mostly on serving patients on Medicaid, known in Oregon as the Oregon Health Plan. It is a full service dental clinic that includes pediatric specialists.
Moda opened the original Arrow Dental in Salem in 2014, and has since opened locations in Astoria, Clatskanie, Eugene, Milwaukie and Hermiston as well as a mobile clinic that serves patients in the Portland area.
Greg Hansen, director of dental Medicaid for Moda, said conversations with coordinated care organizations pinpointed Hermiston as an area with high need for more dentists who take Oregon Health Plan patients, particularly for providers specializing in pediatric dentistry.
They opened the Hermiston office in April and are currently taking patients. Hansen said 98% of Arrow Dental’s patients statewide are on Medicaid.
“We do take private insurance, but it’s usually family members of patients,” he said.
In 2018, Oregon Health Authority’s statewide health assessment found only 0.42 dentists per 1,000 people in Oregon, with rural areas even further underserved. It also found that 58% of third graders in Oregon have already experienced tooth decay, and that 45% of children ages 1-5 on Medicaid had not received any preventative dental care.
Dr. Teri Barichello, chief dental officer at Moda, said it is important for people to understand what a “critical role” that oral health plays in peoples’ overall health. It can have an effect on everything from cardiac health to diabetes.
“In children we don’t worry as much about gum disease, but their enamel is much thinner,” she said. “Once a cavity gets started it can progress much quicker.”
Children experiencing tooth pain have trouble concentrating in school, she said, and sometimes resort to acting out with bad behavior. Barichello said all children should visit a dentist by their first birthday or once their first tooth erupts to get an early start on prevention.
Opening Arrow Dental in Hermiston should make that easier for Eastern Oregon residents.
Arrow Dental shares a building with Affordable Family Eyewear at 298 E. Gladys Ave. in Hermiston.