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Monday, Aug 10, 2020

Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center, Johnston Memorial Hospital residents provide free dental care to Southwest Virginia residents

The newly opened Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center, in conjunction with members of the dental residency program at Johnston Memorial Hospital, provided free dental care to 60 patients during the Abingdon mini-MOM (Mission of Mercy) event, held July 30-Aug. 1.

Patients who attended the three-day event had been on Mission of Mercy’s waitlist of denture patients and did not otherwise have access to care. In some cases, patients had been on the waiting list for many years.

“Ballad Health’s vision to improve health in the Appalachian Highlands means we’re committed to bolstering all factors of well-being – including dentistry and the social factors that can impede our residents’ access to those services,” said Ballad Health Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan Levine. “Dental care is a well-known harbinger for overall health, which means it needs to be addressed and prioritized just like primary care and preventive wellness.

“In fact, improving oral health is one of several goals in our Cooperative Agreement in Virginia and Certificate of Public Advantage in Tennessee. And dental events such as these, coupled with our new dental residency program, are invaluable to improving access and helping our communities receive the dental services that improve their quality of life.”   

The Abingdon mini-MOM was made possible by financial contributions from the Virginia Dental Association Foundation and Benchmark Dental Manufacturing Company. The Mission of Mercy program was created in 2000 by Dr. Terry Dickinson, former executive director of the Virginia Dental Association. Since its inception, the program has provided more than $26.1 million worth of free dental care to more than 31,000 Southwest Virginia patients.

After kicking off on Wednesday, July 29, with a dental lecture and training by Dr. Scott Miller and Dr. Stephen Alouf for attending residents and volunteer dentists, the Abingdon mini-MOM provided Johnston Memorial Hospital dental residents the opportunity to gain extra instruction and experience in removable prosthodontics and community service. Out of the incoming class of 2021, eight of the nine residents participated in the event.

“This is an exciting opportunity, not just for dental residents, but for those in need across Southwest Virginia,” said Dr. Miller, who is also an advising dentist to the Johnston Memorial dental residents.

“Providing dental care not only improves overall health, but it can be an important factor in job success and other socioeconomic factors – all of which, again, contribute to health and wellbeing. Also, by increasing the number of dentists in this region, even more people will have access to dental care. We very much look forward to moving the needle on this region’s oral health statistics, while giving hope to retiring dentists as well.”

In addition to the patients of the clinic, patients at Johnston Memorial will also see the benefits from the program. The dental residents will be available to treat hospital patients with oral healthcare needs, including cancer patients, patients in the sleep labs, and those who come into the emergency room with dental problems.

John Jeter, chief executive officer of Johnston Memorial, said the Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center, which officially opened July 1, will play a vital role in expanding access to oral health care for those that live in Southwest Virginia.

“It’s no secret – oral health is a major indicator of overall wellness. Evidence shows a link between dental health and diabetes, heart disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Plus, people with gum disease are 1.5 to two times more likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and nearly three times more likely to suffer a stroke,” Jeter said.

“Unfortunately, as many as 68% of our community members do not have dental insurance, and more than 160,000 in our region do not have adequate access to a dentist. That’s why the new Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center is so important — it’s giving more people access to oral care and, hopefully, opening new pathways for better health.”

Through a partnership with Dr. Michael McCracken, Dr. Miller and Mission Dental Virginia, the Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center provides a variety of services, including preventive and restorative care. The dental care will be offered to the uninsured on a sliding scale, targeting low-income community members in need throughout Southwest Virginia.

The Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center has benefitted from two grants recently awarded to Mission Dental Virginia, the nonprofit that oversees the clinic. The Virginia Healthcare Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to be used for capital expenditures for dental equipment in the clinic’s eight dental operatories, while Delta Dental Virginia provided a $15,000 grant in support of dental appliances, such as dentures and implants.

The Johnston Memorial Hospital Community Foundation also provided $41,000 to the clinic, made possible through events held in Southwest Virginia last year, and the clinic is also the beneficiary of contributions, volunteers and community partners. Additionally, Johnston Memorial provides the clinic free use of its dental clinic space at 616 Campus Drive, Suite 100, Abingdon, Virginia.

“We’ve known all along that to truly make a difference – whether in healthcare, quality of life or social factors – it takes a village,” Jeter said. “I’m deeply grateful to all of our partners, from Mission Dental Virginia to the committed volunteers working in the dental clinic, for giving their time, talents and resources to make the Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center a reality.”

Appointments for the Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center can be made by calling 276-525-4487 or visiting Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center. The clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Anyone interested in supporting or volunteering time to the Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center can contact or call 706-509-2997.