COLLEGE PARK – More than 1,200 people participated in a free dental clinic held at The University of Maryland (UMD) Terrapins’ basketball court inside of the XFINITY Center on Sept. 5 and Sept. 6. The event provided an opportunity for underserved, uninsured and underinsured adults to receive free dental care from 100 dental chairs. “It’s […]
COLLEGE PARK – More than 1,200 people participated in a free dental clinic held at The University of Maryland (UMD) Terrapins’ basketball court inside of the XFINITY Center on Sept. 5 and Sept. 6.
The event provided an opportunity for underserved, uninsured and underinsured adults to receive free dental care from 100 dental chairs.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” said Patricia Brooks, a patient. “I got here early in the morning. The only problem is they didn’t have enough people to guide you so you know which way to go like at 5 o’clock this morning they didn’t have a lot of people. Other than that, it’s a beautiful experience. We need more like this.”
The Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity organized the event, with sponsorships coming from the University of Maryland Public Health’s Center for Health Equity and Catholic Charities, and the Archdiocese of Washington. People flocked into the auditorium to take advantage of the free services which included fillings, cleanings, extractions, root canals and oral hygiene education.
“I love that this is an ongoing process,” said Dean Coppola, deputy director of National Children’s Study at the National Institutes of Health, a dentist by trade who was present to represent the Office of the Surgeon General. “I love the engagement of private practice and federal dentists to dental hygienists. We have nurses here, physicians here, all different aspects of healthcare engaged in the same area and people getting the help. You can look at their faces and see how happy they are because it is very rare at these type of volunteer events to have this kind of access to oral healthcare. So I think these folks fully enjoy and understand the rarity of what’s happening here. It’s been a phenomenal effort.”
More than 800 volunteers—including licensed dental professionals and general volunteers—provided more than $1 million of free dental care over two days to 1,000 underserved, uninsured and underinsured adults age 18 and over.
According to the university, between an estimated 5 percent and 8 percent of Americans do not visit the dentist because of fear of dental procedures, while another 20 percent delay dental care because of anxiety. During the two-day event, performers from the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center provided relaxing and calming music to promote stress reduction and healing.
Many professional dentists closed their practices and brought their entire dental staff to volunteer in the event.
Brandon Berman, dental hygienist with National Dentist Associates in Rockville and Burtonsville, provided his services at the event.
“I worked this morning and wanted to come here and help give back to the community,” said Berman. “I love doing charity events and giving back to everybody. Seeing everybody’s smiling faces is what I came here to do and help out. Obviously there’s a huge, underserved population so helping out today is kind of a drop in the bucket in terms of what needs to be done but anything that we can do to help out certainly helps.”
The Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity started the event after Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old boy from Prince George’s County, died in 2007 from an untreated dental infection.
“I think from a child advocacy standpoint, we have the potential of wiping out dental disease in young children. It is preventable,” said Leigh Cobb, health policy director of Advocates for Children and Youth. “The state of Maryland has done a great job in the aftermath of Deamonte Driver’s tragic death in 2007 in increasing the number of kids who have access to a dentist and regular access to care. We’re not at 100 percent and we need to get there but we know that one way to ensure that children get the care they need is to make sure the parents get the coverage and they’re getting the care. We know with medical coverage, that if parents get enrolled, so do their kids…We need to make sure that happens with dental as well. It is part of overall health; it should not be separated out. It’s a critical component for healthy children and healthy futures.”