Providing critical dental treatment to the needy in Jackson Macon Swain & Transylvania Counties of Western North Carolina

The Need and The People We Serve

The Clinic serves a rural population with the following barriers to dental care:

  • Higher rates of poverty; based on US census data, over 17,000 low-income residents of this region would financially qualify for our Clinic's services
  • Larger percentage of elderly population
  • Geographic isolation
  • Lack of adequate transportation
  • Lower dental insurance rates
  • Acute provider shortages

Such inequities in access have and will continue to perpetuate disparities in oral health outcomes unless systemic changes are made.

One of our happy patients
Perhaps the greatest barrier is wealth. With poverty levels ranging from 15%-21% in our region, we know that dental disease is concentrated among these lower-income populations. This gap in dental disease between lower- and other-income groups should come as no surprise when one considers concurrent trends in social determinants of disease. Out-of-pocket expenses for dental care are more than three times higher than for medical care. Lack of dental coverage and/or ability to pay pose even greater barriers for rural populations, who are already challenged by fewer dental providers to access for care. Primary care providers and Emergency Departments (ED) have limited resources to properly treat urgent dental needs, and yet, ED dental visits per 10,000 population in WNC is 91.8 (more than twice the national rate and higher than the state rate of 87.9).

The Clinic's comprehensive dental services are available to residents of Jackson, Macon, Swain, Transylvania and Haywood counties with income of 200% of FPL at absolutely no cost. 39% of the Clinic’s patients are Jackson County residents with a large percentage from our Cashiers community. They are our essential workers, our elderly, our veterans—our neighbors.