400 of area’s underserved, homeless take part in UAB Dentistry Cares Day

More than 500 volunteers provide dental care at an event like very few around the country.

dentistry cares 2014Around 400 underserved and homeless people in the Birmingham area received teeth cleanings, restorations and extractions at no cost as part of the second UAB Dentistry Cares Day, which took place Wednesday, Nov. 5, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry.

Organized by the UAB School of Dentistry, more than 500 volunteers took part in the charitable event, including partners from the UAB School of Nursing, One Roof, Cahaba Valley Health Care, and other local dentists, health agencies and companies.

“This has quickly become a real highlight for us after just two years,” said Michael Reddy, DMD, D.M.Sc., dean of UAB’s School of Dentistry. “UAB Dentistry Cares brings the community together to serve those in need and to try to educate all of us on the importance of oral health and how it affects our overall health. The fact that we have so many students, faculty, staff, alumni and state health organizations involved in this endeavor for the second year in a row, to help those who may be a little down on their luck, is really a testament to the people of our university and the Birmingham community.”

UAB is among very few dental schools in the country to host this type of benevolent event. Along with dental care, all of those who took part in UAB Dentistry Cares received oral health counseling, blood pressure checks and oral cancer screenings.

More than half of adults ages 20 to 64 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 over age 21, so low-income people have limited access to dental services in this state.

“This event helps raise awareness of the increasing difficulty low-income adults face in accessing critical dental care, and challenges dental professionals to work together to improve the oral health of the citizens of Alabama and beyond,” said Conan Davis, DMD, assistant dean for Community Collaborations and Public Health in the School of Dentistry. “As dental and health care experts, we have been given skills, abilities and resources, and we believe it is part of our duty to give back to the community.”

Approximately 300 of those treated were from homeless shelters; others had no means or access to oral health care.

This year, UAB partnered with the dental clinics at the Christ Health Center, The Foundry and Jefferson County Department of Health as treatment provider sites. These new event partners joined the School of Dentistry, along with the UAB School of Nursing, Cahaba Valley Health Care, the Fortis Institute School of Dental Hygiene, the Samford School of Pharmacy and many local volunteers, to meet the urgent dental needs of attendees. Referrals to local dentists and dental clinics also were made available.