- November 18, 2010
U.S. Coast Guard veteran Eric Davis sat in a dental chair as Macy Moore, a School of Dental Medicine student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Lakewood Ranch, examined his mouth.
At the end of his 20-minute dental exam, Davis came away armed with a bag filled with dental care products and something even more valuable — knowing the state of his oral health.
“It reaffirmed I need a root canal. I need a cleaning and a couple of fillings,” Davis said.
Davis, a veterans services adviser for Goodwill Manasota, attended an Aug. 31 dental clinic at Goodwill’s Veterans Services Office on Lockwood Ridge Road. The veteran-specific event was the first in a four-clinic partnership (the other three are not veteran-specific) between Goodwill Manasota and Lake Erie College of Medicine’s School of Dental Medicine. At each, patients will receive evaluations from dental students, as well as information about good dental health.
Shirley Parrado, director of outreach for LECOM School of Dental Medicine, said the evaluation clinics are dual purpose, serving to inform patients of their oral health and provide dental education, as well as to help recruit patients for LECOM’s dental clinic, which offers reduced-price dental services to the community.
Under the supervision of a dentist, students in the School of Dental Medicine collectively can see 100 patients daily, performing basic cleanings, extractions, crowns and root canals. The clinic sees just more than 50 patients a day, and LECOM needs more.
“People don’t know that we’re out there,” Parrado said. “My goal is to double, triple the number of patients. Our vision is to be able to take dentistry to the community.
“LECOM’s mission is to help the community understand the importance of dental health,” she said, adding 60% of children in the Sarasota-Manatee area have never seen a dentist and most people, particularly those in the service industry, don’t have dental insurance.
Gray Videnka, vice president of the Goodwill Manasota Foundation, said the partnership is a perfect fit because one of Goodwill’s core values is that people are its greatest asset.
“We really believe in empowering the whole person, which includes their health,” she said. “Dental health is one of the most important pieces (of health care).”
For patients like Davis, the day proved to be what its organizers hoped. It changed his perception on the importance of dental health. During the clinic, he learned the plaque from his teeth can break off and cause inflammation throughout his body and lead to heart disease and other problems. Many health conditions can be found during dental checkups, as well.
Davis last saw a dentist two years ago while still in the Coast Guard and has put off dental care as less important than his medical treatment. Dental care is not covered entirely by Veterans Affairs like his medical care is.
“It’s important to have a clean mouth, too,” he said. “I definitely need to go get it checked out.”