By Adam Pope
More than 500 underserved and homeless people in the Birmingham area received teeth cleanings, fillings and extractions at no cost as part of the fourth annual UAB Dentistry Cares Community Day, which took place Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry.
Organized by the UAB School of Dentistry, more than 300 volunteers took part in the charitable event, including partners from, Alabama Dental Association, The Foundry Dental Clinic, Cahaba Valley Health Care, and other local dentists, health agencies and companies.
“This is something that we decided to do because we realized there is so much need for dental care for low-income adults,” said Assistant Dean for Community Collaborations and Public Health Conan Davis, DMD. “It’s taken a good bit of effort behind the scenes to get this going, but we are so thankful to all of our partners who make this event successful.”
UAB Dentistry Cares helps raise awareness of the increasing difficulty that low-income adults face in accessing critical dental services. These oral health barriers can elevate chronic health conditions, reduce employability and lead to the preventable use of costly acute care.
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.
Many third- and fourth-year dental students volunteered with many different aspects of the event.
“This is my favorite event that UAB Dentistry has,” said Will Bates, a fourth-year dental student. “Over the course of the four years that I’ve been here, I have been able to do a lot of different things each time. It’s such a great thing.”
This year, patients were expected to receive more than $200,000 in pro bono dental services. Through sponsor and community support, the UAB School of Dentistry is among very few dental schools in the country to host this type of benevolent event.
UAB Dentistry Cares Community Day is also a platform for the UAB School of Optometry’s Gift of Sight, in which the two schools work side by side to register qualified patients for the 2016 Gift of Sight program that will take place at the Western Health Clinic in Midfield, Alabama, and UAB Eye Care from Nov. 30 through Dec. 3.