Written by: Deborah Fuller, DMD, MS
Regular dental visits provide a chance for early diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of oral diseases for people of all ages. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to see a dentist, whether it’s because of a lack of dental insurance, the ability to time off from work, or simply not understanding that a healthy mouth is important to a healthy body.
In Rhode Island, only about 35% of adults age 21 and older covered by Medicaid have visited a dentist. Low-income adults are almost twice as likely to go without a dental checkup than higher income adults. Many people suffer in silence or turn to hospital emergency rooms, which are very expensive and often do not provide definitive care.
In order to address the unmet oral health needs in our state, Rhode Islanders have come together through the Rhode Island Mission of Mercy (RIMOM) free dental clinic.
On the weekend of May 31 – June 1, 2014, the Community College of Rhode Island's Dental Hygiene and Assisting clinics at the Lincoln campus will be transformed into a fully operational large-scale free dental clinic staffed with hundreds of dental, medical and community volunteers who will graciously gave their time, talent and clinical expertise to provide dental services to over 1000 patients.
The RIMOM addresses patients’ most urgent oral health needs, and places a high priority on patients suffering from infections or pain. During the free clinic, dental services are provided on a first come-first served basis, and include cleanings, fluoride treatments, dental sealants, x-rays, oral health education, fillings, tooth extractions, root canal treatments, and partial dentures.
The 2013 RIMOM provided over $525,000 of free dental services to over 900 children and adults who were uninsured, underinsured, or could not access a dentist. Approximately 360 health care professionals and 250 community volunteers worked together to make the event possible. Hundreds of patients waited patiently in line until the doors opened at 6:00am Saturday morning. The patients’ stories were inspiring and humbling, from "Mayor Bob", father of 5 who rode his bike from Rehoboth, to Tim and Laura, a couple to be married at the end of the month who received treatment together. All of the patients I spoke to had something special to say about the clinic and its volunteers, and many of them said that it was the best care they had ever received. Even more told me that without this clinic, they would have had no other choice but to endure their pain indefinitely or pull their teeth themselves.
What makes this event even more special is that non-traditional groups have become partners and collaborators. Medical providers, oral health providers, pharmacists, state agencies, higher education, community based health and human service agencies, hospitals, health centers, banks, corporations, insurers, small businesses, as well as hundreds of individual volunteers from communities all across the Rhode Island will join forces for this 2 day event.
If you are a medical, dental, or pharmacy professional - we need you! Without your help, the RIMOM would not be possible. Please visit www.RIMOM.org for information on becoming a volunteer.
If you are someone who is in need of dental care - the RIMOM may be able to help. Please visit www.RIMOM.org for information. The RIMOM provides a wide variety of dental services, but there are some types of dental treatment that are not able to be provided, so visit our website for details.
If you see someone without a smile….give them one of yours!
Guest blog by Deborah Fuller, DMD, MS, and Vice-President of the RI Oral Health Foundation Board of Directors