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The Western Tidewater Free Clinic is doubling its dental care facilities.

The $1 million expansion will increase capacity from two to four patients at a time.

Ashley Greene is executive director at the clinic. She said demand has been rising for dental care. 

“This ability to go from two chairs to four will allow us to serve more than 200 patients in the first year than what we're already serving,” Greene said.

The clinic got its first-ever full-time dentist in August. Until then, it relied on one part-time dentist, local dentists donating their time and Old Dominion University dental students.

Greene said the expansion will be done this fall.

Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services reported to the General Assembly that only 26.9% of Virginia’s dentists treated Medicaid-covered patients as of 2022.

The report said one of the major reasons dentists are reluctant to see Medicaid patients is how little payment they receive for participating in the program. Before 2022’s reimbursement fee increase, dentists had been paid the same rate since 2005.

In that same report, DMAS cited an increase in Medicaid-covered patients: in December 2018, covered patients sat at 1.22 million. By August 2022, that number had grown to more than 2 million, all of whom received dental benefits.

This story was updated to specify the clinic had a part-time dentist before it hired a full-time dentist.