Dental Clinic Helped Hundreds Receive Crucial Care
Sara Quandt, PhD, knows about oral health among North
Carolina’s low-income populations.
“If you think it’s hard to get access to medical care, it’s
even harder to get access to dental care,’’ says Quandt, a professor of
epidemiology and prevention with Wake Forest School of Medicine.
That is one of the reasons Quandt took the responsibility of
organizing the hundreds of volunteers needed to staff the Winston-Salem Free
Adult Dental Clinic, held last November at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds.
She led a team of 431 community volunteers—many from Wake
Forest Baptist Medical Center—who worked for two days with 78 dentists and 277
dental team members to provide free care to those in need. The principle funder
was the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust; Wake Forest Baptist was an event
Nearly 700 people received dental care—from teeth cleanings
to root canal to bridge work to extractions.
Tony Porter, DDS, organized the event for the North Carolina
The free adult dental clinic moves around the state to
different locations; events were held in Winston-Salem in both 2014 and 2015. The
North Carolina Missions of Mercy (NCMOM), an outreach program of the Dental
Society, works with local organizers to provide the 80-chair dental clinic.
Porter says there are two goals behind the free dental
clinics. The first is to treat patients and the second is “to shine a light so
that policy makers see there is a problem.’’ He hopes state lawmakers will
consider measures that make is easier for poor people to receive dental care,
including funding for more community care clinics.
Quandt says the people who attend may be indigent, but many are
working poor—people who cannot get dental insurance from their employer and
cannot afford to pay for care themselves. It can be even tougher on those who no
longer have jobs.
“It’s a vicious cycle,’’ Quandt says. “People can’t get jobs
and they lose their dental care and so they experience tooth decay and even
tooth loss. And that makes them less able to get jobs because they have constant
dental pain and unattractive teeth. All of these things work against you when
you’re trying to get a job.”
Quandt says the number of young adults who came in with
decayed teeth and require extractions was disturbing. But the best part of the
experience was seeing the compassion shown by dentists, dental assistants and
community volunteers, Quandt says.
“Everyone understands that these are people who are there
for economic reasons and have put off seeing a dentist for years,’’ she says.
“The providers are kind and very understanding of the anxiety that patients are