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2 clinics work to provide low-cost (or free) dental care for veterans, children

Heroes Clinic at CU Anschutz and KIND clinics work to help veterans and kids get the health care they need.

COLORADO, USA — Two clinics in metro Denver work to offer free or low-cost dental services to veterans and kids.

The Heroes Clinic at the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz offers discounted services to veterans, and the Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND) clinics offer dental services to children at three clinics across the Front Range.

Heroes Clinic

Heidi Tyrrell, director of clinical operations for the CU School of Dental Medicine's Heroes Clinic, said the discounts provided to veterans, which are offered on top of an already discounted fee schedule, is important as many veterans don't receive dental treatment. 

"We actually have patients who will couch-surf in order to be close for their appointments," Tyrrell said.

Tyrrell said about 7% of veterans receive dental service because they must be 100% disabled to qualify.

Tyrrell said a veteran patient without benefits gets a general 25% discount on care — for example, a crown at the Heroes Clinic will run around $370. 

"A crown at a private dental practice will cost you on average $1,800," Tyrrell said. "So charges are much lower here to begin with."

Tyrrell also said she occasionally gets grant money that allows the clinic to provide services for free. The clinic also serves those who are non-military at fees far below those of traditional dentists, and sees a large population of senior citizens and Medicaid patients on a fixed income.

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KIND clinics      

KIND (Kids in Need of Dentistry) clinics have been providing free screenings and low-cost or free dental care for Front Range Kids since 1912. 

Executive Director Ellie Burbee said no one is turned away from the three clinics in metro Denver, two in Denver and one in Commerce City.

"KIND treats kids from infancy to age 18 and often beyond," Burbee said.

She said they work with each family to provide the best care possible.

"If they are covered by Medicaid or CHIP they are taken care of," Burbee said. "If they are uninsured, we treat kids starting at a 75% discount, and beyond that, we work on a sliding fee scale depending on what families can afford."

She added that KIND is also in more than 100 schools every year, with the program's hygienist doing preventative dentistry.

"We do sealants in that program [and] they do fluoride treatments, scientifically proven to reduce cavities and dental disease and decay well past the date they are administered," Burbee said. "And then they do screenings for any other issues and make sure anything is escalated to our actual dentist on staff."

Burbee said that many don't realize the critical need for early dental intervention with children. Kids miss 51 million hours of school a year due to dental pain.

"It's the number one reason for school absences in the United States," Burbee said.

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