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Jerel N. Owens

Dr. Jerel N. Owens, a dental surgeon who has practiced dentistry for 31 years, could have a practice any where and provide dental care to patients who have the ability to pay for everything he recommends. But apparently money isn't his primary or even secondary motivator.

After completing dental school at the University of Pittsburgh, a general practice residency and an oral-maxillofacial residency at Henry Ford Hospital, he returned to his old neighborhood in Detroit and set up his dental practice five miles from where he grew up to fulfil his dream of giving back to his community.

The patients treated by Dr. Owens are 70 to 80 percent Medicaid patients. The level of compensation Medicaid pays to dental providers is low and the services it covers are limited. Fortunately for Dr. Owens's patients, dental surgery is covered by Medicaid. Surgical procedures such as root canals and implants are not covered.

Medicaid marginalizes Dr. Owen's ability to provide the majority of his patients with the very best dental care. While he understands that patients can't spend money they don't have he takes the time to educate his patients on the connection between dental health and general health. He tries everyday to get patients to fight a little harder for themselves and to understand the value of dental care.

Today, the number of dentist accepting Medicaid is trending downward. As a result, people who have Medicaid are being cared for by dental franchises and professional dental centers. The dentists that work in these centers are employees with production goals. Production quotas may sometimes interfere with the level of service provided to a patient. Meanwhile, Dr. Owens has 18 patient appointments a day and typically ends up seeing 24 patients a day in an effort to accommodate people who are in pain.

On Wednesdays, Dr. Owens doesn't head to the golf course. He works at the Herman Kiefer Clinic in Detroit providing dental care for people who don't have dental insurance.

For more about Dr. Owens please download the The Journal of The Michigan Dental Association article entitled Dr. Jerel N. Owens: Dentist with a Mission. >