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Dentists, dental schools provide care during shutdown to federal employees

January 23, 2019

By David Burger

With the government shutdown affecting an estimated 800,000 federal employees — who either were out of work or worked without pay — dental practices and schools across the country helped federal workers weather the shutdown when it came to dental care.

About 45,000 federal workers who live in the Philadelphia area were supported by two dental schools in the area during the shutdown. Temple University School of Dentistry provided free dental care to furloughed federal employees during the government shutdown, the school said in a news release. The providers treated emergency pain — pain, infection and trauma — as well as urgent matters requiring immediate care, such as broken fillings.

Penn Dental Medicine, also in Philadelphia, similarly provided emergency dental care to furloughed federal employees. "With budgets tight for many furloughed workers, they may be reluctant to seek dental care even when in discomfort. We want them to know Penn Dental Medicine is here to serve them," said Dr. Mark Wolff, Morton Amsterdam Dean of Penn Dental Medicine, according to Penn Dental's website.

Temple and Penn were not the only ones providing care during the shutdown.

For example, two south Florida dental practices, The Dental Care Group and Dental Care Group Kids, launched a program to ensure dental care was available for those in need. The program, according to a news release from the practices, offered verified government employees interest-free deferred payment options and immediate dental care. "It is heartbreaking to turn on the news every night and seeing all the government workers that are either furloughed or being asked to work without pay over a political football," said Dr. Rick Mars in the release. "Knowing we can do our part to relieve the burden of having to pay for dental care for these workers and their children is our continued commitment to our patients and community," said Dr. Mars.

A group of 14 practices in Illinois, 1st Family Dental, offered free emergency dental care to federal workers and their immediate families affected by the government shutdown. Emergency services included a dental exam, X-rays and related treatment to relieve pain. The practice ran a video on its website about their commitment, available at 1stfamilydental.com.

Maryland, northern Virginia and Washington, D.C, practices also saw many of their patients furloughed as they lie near the nation's capital.

One practice, Dental Care of Westminster in Maryland, offered a 30-day payment grace period for government employees who had their pay suspended, according to its website. "If you have an upcoming appointment with us but haven't received a paycheck due to the government shutdown, please give us a call," said their website during the shutdown. "Our team is happy to defer your payments and customize a payment plan specifically designed for you and your family's budget during this difficult time. Dental maintenance is important and there is no need to suffer from a lapse in your oral health care."

Congress and President Donald Trump reached a budget agreement to fund the government for three weeks on Jan. 25.