As a fourth-year dental student at the University of Florida (UF), I’ve served patients across the state and found that dental caries was the most common condition I saw. This is no surprise, though, since it is the most prevalent of all oral diseases around the world, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.
As I arrived outside of the Oregon Convention Center, a calm, dark morning was waiting for the sun to rise at 5:30 am in the morning. Entering the treatment area, the hustle of volunteers and patients turned my idea of volunteering into reality. I was excited to serve people, as it was my first experience at a state level dental event on such a large scale. I was assisting various departments as per their need depending on my shifts assigned at the event.
During one of my volunteer shifts in the restorative department as a dental assistant, a 62-year female patient who had been an opera singer in the past came for multiple fillings including her upper anterior teeth. At the beginning of the treatment, she shared her previous constructive experience at OrMOM and her words revealed her gratification that had brought her again to this event.
The American Dental Association wants to reduce the number of adults and children with untreated dental disease. Volunteer outreach events primarily serve this goal. Some patients travel hundreds of miles and wait for days in line just to get a tooth extracted. Many of these stories go untold, so it is our duty as future practitioners to speak for the underserved and get barriers to care at the forefront of the political agenda.
The ADA started the Action for Dental Health two years ago to combat access to care issues with three goals in mind: to treat patients in need now, to expand the private and public safety net, and to increase education and prevention. Read on to learn more.
In April, more than 380 dental students from across the country united in Washington. Students met with legislators and lobbied for the Action for Dental Health Act. H.R. 539 is a bipartisan supported bill introduced to Congress by Representative Robin Kelly from Illinois. If passed, the bill would allow nonprofit organizations to qualify for oral health grants administered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These grants could be used to support several programs outlined within the ADA Action for Dental Health initiative.
Volunteers from all across the nation gathered in San Antonio, Texas for the shared purpose of bridging the gap to oral care for patients unable to attain dental care due to financial reasons. During October 11-12, the ADA Mission of Mercy (MOM) transformed the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center into a fully functioning oral care center. On Saturday, the center was equipped with portable dental chairs and tables necessary to perform X-rays, sterilizations, exams, fillings, extractions, oral surgeries, endodontic treatment and even prosthodontic treatment. I was one of the predental students who volunteered my time to the ADA MOM with the hope of helping make a difference in the oral care of the community. Read about Ileana’s experience…