JOHNSON CITY – Costs associated with proper dental care can be frustrating, especially for those with little or no income, so that's why a community of volunteers, dedicated professionals and East Tennessee State University are working to help those in need.
Through the non-profit Keystone Dental Care Inc. (KDC), area dentists, ETSU dental hygiene students and faculty, dental assistants and area volunteers continue to provide preventive and emergency dental care for a section of the population who might otherwise go untreated.
The concept for a regional volunteer dental clinic originated in 1997 when area dentists and hygienists noticed an urgent need for adult dental care. With the assistance of local agencies like the Northeast Tennessee Regional Public Health offices and community involvement, KDC began treating patients in May 1999.
Facilities for the project were leased locally with the help of ETSU community grant projects. The Community Outreach Partnership Center was given a grant by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help further fund the project while the Health Access Initiative Committee provided monies for dental supplies. Numerous supplies and renovation materials were donated through friends of the project and the community.
The clinic care is provided on a first-come, first-served basis for low-income adults including enrollees in the state's Families First program and area homeless.
Anyone meeting financial guidelines is eligible for care. Applicants are accepted based on a person's income and a dental assessment.
According to a report by KDC treasurer and ETSU supervising dentist Dr. Rebecca Nunley the highest demand for services at Keystone is for teeth extractions, followed by routine fillings. Services primarily focus on “the relief of pain and infection to eliminate active diseases and stabilize oral health.”
Since opening, KDC has treated more than 890 low-income patients, 410 of whom were new applicants for the June 2000-May 2001 year.
The majority of KDC patients are from Washington County, with 67 percent total enrollment, while 14 percent are from Carter County. The remaining 19 percent are from the surrounding counties of Greene, Unicoi, Sullivan and Hawkins.
A board of directors is responsible for the administration and operation of KDC with dentists and volunteers serving on a clinical advisory committee to monitor the facility, infection control, clinical protocol and expendable dental supply purchases.
To volunteer much needed time and supplies or to make a tax-deductible contribution to the KDC project, contact the office located in the Keystone Community Center, 603 Bert St., Suite 206, Box 12, Johnson City.
For more information, telephone the clinic at (423) 232-7919 or Nunley at (423) 439-4497, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.etsu.edu/keystone/dental.