Archived Story

A profound improvement

Published 9:54pm Friday, January 17, 2014

One of the most exciting services to be added in recent years at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic — a jewel in its own right — is dentistry for the underinsured and uninsured.

In 2013, the clinic saw 585 patients during 2,155 visits. As anyone who has ever suffered anything worse than a nagging toothache can attest, each of those visits represented a potentially life-changing opportunity for the patient involved.

But dental health is about more than just alleviating pain. A healthy set of teeth helps people eat better, improves digestion and helps improve the overall health of the body.

There are also social benefits to having healthy teeth, and helping their patients overcome the stigma of missing or diseased teeth was one of the main goals WTFC officials hoped to achieve when they started the dental clinic a couple of years ago.

A new program at the clinic will go a long way toward restoring the self esteem of those who have lost their teeth or had them removed at the clinic. Through a grant from the Virginia Health Care Foundation, the clinic is now able to provide sets of dentures to its clients — and, as with the other services offered there, they will be free of charge.

“Some people think of dentures as being more cosmetic than anything else,” WTFC Executive Director Miriam Beiler said recently. “But (not having teeth) affects a patient’s ability to chew and eat more nutritious foods. In some cases, it helps people to become more employable.”

Beiler said at least one of the clinic’s patients found a job immediately after getting her dentures.

Most of us don’t give much thought to our teeth aside from what it takes to maintain them from day to day and have them cleaned at the dentist’s office. But for the folks who receive their dentures from the free clinic, the change in their lives will be profound.

It’s good to see the Western Tidewater Free Clinic continuing to find ways to improve the health — and the lives — of so many people in Suffolk and the surrounding areas.

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