According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-third of all adults in the United States have untreated tooth decay, and dental cavities affect American children more than any other chronic infectious disease.
Many Philadelphians do not receive adequate oral care for a variety of reasons, including the cost of treatment, a lack of time, and a dearth of nearby accessible providers.
In an effort to better provide for the city’s underserved residents, Penn Dental Medicine is hosting an outreach event, “Nation of Smiles, One Smile at a Time,” on Saturday, June 23, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The program, an extension of the annual meeting of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), will involve Penn dentists, hygienists, and students, as well as several dozen other AGD practitioners, volunteering their time and expertise to offer free examinations, fillings, extractions, pain relief, and additional dental care to an estimated 500 people.
This will be the third year that AGD and the AGD Foundation has partnered with a dental school to donate oral care to a community. In 2011, the AGD meeting was held in San Diego, where volunteers provided roughly $80,000 of care, or $625 per patient. The 2010 outreach event provided nearly $100,000 in free oral care to approximately 180 underserved residents of New Orleans.
To identify Philadelphians in need of dental treatment, Kotch worked with Joan Gluch, associate dean and director of community oral health for Penn Dental Medicine, Glenn Bryan, assistant vice president of community relations in the Office of Government and Community Affairs, and Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.
Clearly, Kotch says, one day of free treatment will not erase the larger problem of poor dental health in underserved communities. But it will have a tangible and beneficial impact on the lives of the patients who are seen.
“This is not a health fair,” he says, “it’s a day to provide treatment. We’re not going to solve all these people’s problems, but we will be able to solve one or two acute problems so they can leave feeling better.”
Originally published on June 7, 2012