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VA Budget Cuts Could Hurt Dental Care For Needy

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Health advocates worry that budget cuts will lower the quality and availability of dental care for the poor in Virginia.
Jonathan Wilson
Health advocates worry that budget cuts will lower the quality and availability of dental care for the poor in Virginia.

By Jonathan Wilson

Legislators in Virginia are dealing with a $4 billion budget shortfall, and dental clinics for the state's poorest residents are among those facing possible cuts.

But Virginia already receives poor marks for its dental care, and some argue now is not the time to cut back.

Zena Bakir, a resident of Fairfax, just lost her job, and needs her wisdom teeth pulled. She relies on a low-cost clinic to do it.

"Its really important," says Bakir. "If you cant have a nice smile it really affects your self-esteem and stuff."

And dental health is far from just a cosmetic concern: the American Dental Association says there's a strong link between overall health and oral health.

Joe Pettit with VOICE, Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, points out that Virginia recently received a "C" grade for its dental care from the Pew Center on the States.

He worries that grade could get lower if a $9 million cut to the state's public health districts, proposed by Virginia's House bill and supported by Governor Bob McDonnell, is approved.

"While that affects all, the services of health districts were afraid that dental needs would be seen as an easy target," says Pettit.

Pettit and two-hundred others from VOICE rallied in Richmond against the cuts.

A Senate budget does NOT include the same reductions. Lawmakers are working to reconcile the plans by the end of the legislative session, March 13th.

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