Expanding The Prospects for Care
Dr. Rita Ne, an endodontist who practices in the Dallas area, has been visiting health care policymakers in Austin because she understands the needs and challenges facing our state’s population when it comes to dental care and feels passionate about creating a solution. Speaking with the directors of the Texas Department of State Health’s Oral Health Group and STARDent at recent provider meetings, Dr. Ne reported that only a small sliver of the state’s endodontic community is taking care of the needs of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) patients. Local budget cuts have hit this population especially hard and have put affordable dental care out of reach for many. North Texas is representative of the pervasive problem across the state.
In Texas, where so many families are underinsured or uninsured, untreated dental disease is the leading cause of school absences. As our state battles an alarming dropout rate and its subsequent down- stream effects, policymakers are becoming painfully aware of the need to keep kids in school. Students who fail to graduate face dramatically poorer economic prospects and are positioned to become a long-term drain on the economy. The Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis reports that Texas dropouts cost the state $377 million in 2007 alone and will likely continue to be a financial burden on the state over their lifetime.
The multifaceted problem of school attrition has no single answer, but Dr. Ne believes she has found a way to contribute to a solution that will help change this dismal outlook.
Dr. Ne has witnessed the great need for endodontic care particularly among children of low income families. This is the reason why she is motivated to end dental pain and prevent unnecessary extractions for Medicaid and CHIP patients. “Imagine being a student in pain with no realistic options for care. Even for those who have access to a primary dentist, most will not have many options for endodontic care. General dentists sometimes elect to refer pediatric patients to specialists for endodontic services, however, many are unable to offer it or are unable to find endodontic providers for Medicaid or CHIP patients. For these children, extraction is often the only feasible treatment to end the pain, but it is a less-than-ideal outcome. Having missing teeth impacts health and self-esteem, affects speech, makes school attendance less inviting and ultimately limits job prospects,” she says.
It is clear that this is both a humanitarian and an economic issue that demands to be addressed. Dr. Ne has put her compassion into action by opening an additional office dedicated to providing root canal therapy for patients with Medicaid and CHIP coverage. The office, Root Canal Dentists, is the first and only practice in Texas devoted to providing endododontic care to the CHIP and Medicaid population. Dr. Ne explains, “ This is a brand new approach, a concept that has never been tried before. It just hasn’t been financially feasible in the past. Finally, the reimbursement rate has been adjusted enough to make it possible to provide some endodontic procedures for patients with Medicaid or CHIP coverage. With the recent cuts in funding, this concept is more important than ever because it provides an affordable alternative to extraction. We must continue to explore ways to bring the full scope of specialty care to this population and this is a start that will make a real impact.”
In addition to her endodontic specialty training, Dr. Ne received extensive training in pediatric dentistry, restorative dentistry, emergency medical care, inpatient care, pain control and anesthesiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral pathology and radiology. She enjoys treating children as well as adults. After dental school, Dr. Ne completed an extra year of postgraduate training in a general practice residency at Hermann Hospital in Houston, where she provided care for pediatric and adult patients with severe medical and/or mental challenges. Upon graduation from endodontic residency, Dr. Ne worked as an associate Endodontist and in 2002 opened her own practices, Highland Park Endodontics and Endodontic Specialists of Rockwall in 2009. Both practices were sold in 2013, so Dr. Ne could devote more time to Root Canal Dentists.
The office is designed to be comfortable and child friendly, with digital ceiling-mounted televisions for patients to watch their favorite program during treatment. The office is equipped with full endodontic set-up and the latest sedation technology, including nitrous oxide, will be available for maximum patient comfort.
Dr. Ne’s efforts to bring endodontic services to all patients in need have been met with enthusiasm by state leaders in health care policymaking and City of Dallas officials who have worked diligently to find solutions to close the gap between need and availability of care.