Georgia: Thousands Line Up For Free Dental Services In Woodstock

Thousands line up for free dental services in Woodstock (ajc, August 12, 2011):

Thousands of people stood in line for free dental services Friday at a church in Woodstock.

The two-day clinic at First Baptist Church of Woodstock on Hwy. 92 is being sponsored by the Georgia Dental Association and its Foundation for Oral Health.

“The line went around the building, all the way through the parking lot and around a warehouse,” said Dr. Richard Smith, who practices in Atlanta. He estimated the line at 2,000 yards and said that at its peak, 4,000 people were in line.

UGA student Jasen Scrivens, 24, of Winder arrived at 1 a.m. hoping to have some unfinished dental work completed.

“About three months ago I had some work done and it cost me a good bit of money and I never got it finished — I couldn’t afford the rest of it — so I came to see if I could get the rest of it done,” he said. He estimated he had spent $3,800 on the work so far.

Stephanie Brazzell of Fairburn said she arrived at the church at 10:45 p.m Thursday and “slept on the concrete.” She said it had been two years since she had any dental work done. “I have a couple of missing teeth and I need some extractions,” she said. Brazzell said she lost her job a couple of years ago and had no dental insurance.

Smith said hard enonomic times have created a huge need for dental services.

“A bunch of us started looking around and realized that with this economy we had to do something. We are not responsible for the problem that’s there, but we’re the only ones who can fix it.

“A lot of these people are in pain, they have infections, they’re missing front teeth … there’s a huge need just to get people back to work. Mothers can’t take care of their children, fathers can’t earn a living … we’ve got to help them.”

He said there were 100 dental chairs set up at the church and more than 1,600 volunteers, including 300 dentists. “We’ve got hygienists we’ve got dental assistants working, there’s oral surgeons extracting teeth, we have endodontists doing root canals … we’ve got people here to feed them; it takes an army and this church has just been absolutely incredible.”

He said it is the first such event in Georgia on this scale.

Smith said the people are in line who do not get treated Friday can return on Saturday. Police were not allowing any more people to get in line Friday.

Dr. Michael Vernon of Augusta said he was moved by the patients’ response to the massive effort.

“Two the first three patients that I saw actually sat in the chair and cried because they were so appreciative of what we’re doing here and it just made me feel good about being here,” he said.

1 thought on “Georgia: Thousands Line Up For Free Dental Services In Woodstock

  1. Kudos to the professionals who volunteered for this event. On November 19, 2011, another free dental event was held in Cobb County. Officials at the Cobb event said they plan to hold the event every year from now on based on the outpouring of Georgia citizens looking for dental care. Unfortunately, Georgia ranks near the bottom of states that provide dental services to adult disadvantaged and with 1.83 million Georgians living in poverty, 61,000 more than last year, the offer of free dental services once a year will not make a dent in the needs of Georgia’s population.
    On November 15, 2011, PBS NewsHour aired a Special Series about the U.S. Dental Crisis and how difficult it is for Americas poor to find dental care. In part two of the NewsHour series the report highlighted how dental therapists are being used in Alaska to treat previously underserved Alaska Natives. The ADA and organized dentistry, oppose this proven model despite admitting they have no evidence to support their position.
    Many states are now considering legislation for a mid-level dental practitioner, or advanced dental hygiene practitioner to help alleviate the dental crisis. Minnesota has become the first state to establish licensure of Dental Therapists. The Dental Therapist (DT) is an advanced dental hygiene provider with distinct educational, examination, and practice requirements.
    Dental hygienists are highly educated licensed professionals who work as part of the oral health team with dentists in meeting the oral health needs of patients. Their level of education and expertise in prevention makes them the most-prepared and able member of the dental team to deliver preventative care without prior examination by a dentist; 29 states allow direct access to care, meaning the dental hygienist can initiate treatment based on assessment of patients’ needs without the specific authorization of a dentist, can treat the patient without the presence of a dentist and can maintain a provider-patient relationship., 44 states allow general supervision of dental hygienists, meaning that a dentist has authorized a dental hygienist to perform procedures but need not be present during those procedures and 44 states allow hygienists to provide local anesthetic for pain management.

    There has never been a death related to dental hygiene services, but the number of deaths directly related to lack of access to dental care is mounting. In September 2011, a 24 year old man died from a tooth infection because he couldn’t afford to pay a dentist for an extraction, or the antibiotics necessary to treat the infection. Four years ago a 12-year-old died after complications from a tooth abscess. His mother searched for a dentist who would accept Medicaid, but she was unsuccessful. Ultimately, she took her son to a hospital emergency room, where he was given medicine and sent home. His condition soon worsened and he was rushed to surgery where it was discovered that bacteria from his abscessed tooth had spread to his brain. He died– when his life could have been saved by a routine dental visit and an $80 tooth extraction.
    It took his death to spur his home state of Maryland to look for innovative solutions to reach underserved children.
    Will it require more deaths before our policy makers address the needed changes to improve access to dental care? Dental therapists have a 90 year history and are utilized in over 50 countries. A 2010 independent evaluation of Alaska’s dental therapist program shows that dental therapists with two years of intensive training provide care that is safe, competent and appropriate, reaffirming the results of many studies previously done in other countries. The evaluation relied on examination standards used for assessing clinical competency for board certification of U.S. dental school graduates.
    The University of Minnesota dental therapist model has dentists and dental therapists caring for the underserved working together side-by-side. It is time the ADA and organized dentistry address the dental provider shortages and look at workforce enhancement via collaboration with other oral health professionals. Dental hygienists are ready to help provide much needed care for our underserved. It is time they were allowed to do so.

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