Not Just for Grins...Volunteer Dentists Help Area's Uninsured
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Not Just for Grins...Volunteer Dentists Help Area's Uninsured 

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Norfolk, VA – June 2, 2004 – Oral infection and extreme tooth decay keep the area’s poor from receiving necessary medical procedures. An indigent patient may have to delay an important surgery for weeks or months while oral infection and decay are treated first.

The Oral Health Improvement Coalition of South Hampton Roads, a cooperative committed to improving oral health in Hampton Roads, plans to address dental health—one of the area’s most serious gaps in health care—by recruiting nearly 130 local dentists this year to work in the region’s free dental health clinics.

Dental cavities represent the single most common childhood chronic disease, occurring five to eight times as frequently as asthma according to Healthy People 2010, a national health assessment.

Further, nearly 30 percent of all adults in the U.S. have untreated dental decay, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, affecting overall community health. Through one of this region’s busiest emergency rooms, oral abscess ranked the 53rd most frequent reason patients were admitted to the hospital.

The $59,000 grant, provided by the Virginia Health Care Foundation, will be used to identify and recruit dentists willing to volunteer in local free clinics and provide services during special projects. In one day last year during one such special project, the Oral Health coalition provided approximately $85,000 of dental care to over 300 South Hampton Roads indigent residents.

“This grant is helping the coalition spread the word about how desperately Hampton Roads’ uninsured need dental care,” says Dr. Deanne Shuman chair of Old Dominion University’s School of Dental Hygiene.

Nearly 30 community partners are significantly involved in the Oral Health Coalition including American Red Cross Free Dental Clinic, Chesapeake Care Free Clinic Norfolk Public Health Department, Old Dominion University School of Dental Hygiene, Park Place Community Health Center, Sentara Healthcare, Tidewater Dental Association, Tidewater Dental Hygiene Association, Virginia Beach Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse, U.S. Navy, Volunteer Hampton Roads, among others.

More than 50 local dentist volunteers already signed up will be recognized at the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at 7:00 p.m. June 4, 2004, at the Holiday Inn Executive Suites on Military Highway.

The Oral Health Improvement Coalition of South Hampton Roads, established in 2002 with the help of Sentara Health Foundation, strives to provide access to dental care, dental health prevention and education, and dental advocacy.

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