More than 500 volunteers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry, the UAB School of Nursing, Cahaba Valley Health Care, and other local dentists, health agencies and companies cared for more than 350 people today as part of the first UAB Dentistry Cares Community Day.
The charitable event saw UAB’s volunteer team treat basic dental needs for low-income and underserved people in the Birmingham-area community at no cost. Treatments included cleanings, restorations and extractions.
“The bottom line is that this is a need for a large part of our population in this area, and we want to help make a positive impact and contribution to our community,” said Michael Reddy, DMD, D.M.Sc., dean of UAB’s School of Dentistry, one of the first schools of dentistry in the country to offers these kinds of services to underserved members of the community in a daylong, charitable event.
“Oral health care goes beyond a smile, and research shows that the infection and inflammation that can occur in the mouth affect our overall health,” Reddy said. “We’re privileged to do what we can today to help those in the community in need.”
On-site wellness activities, including blood pressure checks and oral cancer screenings, were made available to patients. School of Nursing students provided additional health care education to patients, reviewed medical histories and more. Each patient also received extensive entry and exit oral health care counseling.
“Our school has a saying that ‘to whom much is given much is required,’” said Conan Davis, DMD, chair of UAB Dentistry Cares and director of community collaborations. “We’ve been given skills, abilities and resources, and we want to give back to our community. We believe it is part of our duty.”
More than 250 people were expected for the daylong event, which began at 8 a.m. But more than 110 people had registered for care by 9 a.m., and the 250-person goal was surpassed by noon.
The School of Dentistry worked with Cahaba Valley Health Care, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing access to quality healthcare for the underserved, and One Roof, a networking and referral agency of service providers for homeless, to coordinate the event. Most of the patients came from homeless shelters in the Jefferson and Shelby County areas, but walk-ups also were accepted.
More than half of adults ages 20 to 64 and below the federal poverty level report their teeth are in either “fair” or “poor” condition, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Less than 50 percent of these adults see a dentist regularly. Additionally, Alabama Medicaid provides no dental coverage for adults, so low-income people have limited access to dental services.
“So, essentially, once you’re past the age of 19 in the state of Alabama, you don’t have any dental coverage,” Reddy said. “If you’re a little down on your luck, like some of the people I’ve met today, there’s nowhere to go. Anyone who has ever needed some preventive care or just had a solid toothache can tell you how important it is to have access to care. Unfortunately, there are many in our own community who have very limited access, and the access they do have is mainly charitable. We’re hoping this event will raise awareness of the need for better access to care.”
Other groups partnering with UAB included local dentists, Henry Schein Dental Supply, Oral Arts Dental Laboratories, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the Alabama Dental Association, the Birmingham District Dental Society, Christ Health Center, Johnson and Johnson, Brasseler USA, and 3M ESPE Dental Products.