Under a new Oregon program, lower income veterans will have access to no-cost dental care. (Photo by RC Photo Stock via Canva)

The Oregon Health Authority is gearing up to launch a no-cost dental program for lower-income veterans.

This month it opened the application process, and on Jan. 1 the program will launch. No one knows how many will sign up and qualify among Oregon’s 300,000 veterans but it could be thousands. 

To qualify, vets can earn between 138% and 400% of the federal poverty limit or between about $19,000 and $54,000 a year for a single person. Those who earn less already qualify for dental care through the Oregon Health Plan, Oregon’s version of Medicaid. 

Create an account or login at one.oregon.gov.
Call 800-699-9075 to get a mailed application.
Find help filling out the form on this website

The Oregon Health Plan and the new veterans plan offer free dental care – without insurance premiums or co-pays that includes cleanings, X-rays, extractions, emergency care and some crowns and dentures.

Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg and a dentist, spearheaded the plan during the February legislative session to cover a gap in services. The Veterans Administration, which offers comprehensive physical care only offers limited dental care. For example, in the Portland area last year, only about 3% of the veterans served by VA Portland also received dental care, said spokesman Daniel Herrigstad, a spokesman for VA Portland.

Hayden estimates that only about 15% of Oregon’s vets have dental care.

Studies show that poor oral hygiene is associated with cavities and gum disease along with heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Dental problems also are linked to depression, difficulty in finding employment and poor self esteem.

Hayden had asked for $5 million for the program but the Legislature only approved $1 million in for startup costs and dental care through June 30 when the current two-year budget ends. Because funds are limited, the health authority, which is administering the program, urged veterans to apply early to ensure they get in. 

“This new program reflects our state’s continuing commitment to serve and support our Oregon veteran community,” Kelly Fitzpatrick, director of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, said in a statement.

Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.