A reason to smile

Published 10:17 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The dentist has never been my favorite place, but I dutifully go every six months. I always complain to friends or family about the sharp metal object that the hygienist insists on poking my gums with. (They would not bleed if you didn’t poke them!) And I nod every time they tell me to floss, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should.

I can count on one hand the people — two to be exact — I know that actually like going to the dentist. They relish in getting their teeth squeaky clean every six months.

My husband, however, hates going to the dentist. The idea of someone with their hands in his mouth freaks him out. He went for the first time in years recently and — according to him — got “fear sweats” from the visit.


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There were a few months that I had to go without dental insurance. It was unnerving every time I had a twinge in my mouth. I knew it would cost us a small fortune to get a cavity or some other procedure done without insurance to cover it.

We were lucky to get through that period unscathed. But not everyone is that fortunate to have good dental health or only be without insurance for a brief time period. That’s why events like a free dental clinic are so important to help out the local community.

A free dental clinic will be held at King’s Fork Middle School next month.

Clinic coordinator Ralph Howell of R.L. Howell DDS and Associates, a longtime practitioner of dentistry in Suffolk, said the effort, set for March 7-8, will involve about 300 volunteers.

“Of that, about 75 are dentists, and there’s about 60 (dentistry) students,” he said. “Then the others are general volunteers.”

The volunteers will perform a wide range of dental work, including examinations, cleanings, fillings, extractions, and limited numbers of root canals and dentures.

According to Howell, Western Tidewater is one of the state’s most underserved areas for dental care. The Virginia Dental Association Foundation introduced the Mission of Mercy free clinics in 2000, he added, but this would be the first held in this region.

Operating on a first-come, first-served basis, the clinic is open to anyone, regardless of financial situation,

The free clinic is only for adults because children are covered under Medicaid, while no government program covers dental care for adults.

To guarantee a spot at the clinic, attend the March 7 screening session, from 3 to 5 p.m. The main event is the following day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

People needing dentures are required to screen ahead of time by calling Lauren at 539-7695.

The clinic has been made possible with two grants, he said, one from the Obici Healthcare Foundation and another from the Virginia Health Care Foundation.

For more information, including for volunteers wishing to register, visit www.vdaf.org/Suffolk-MOM-Project.