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SOD's annual outreach program brought smiles worth more than $1 million

Published on Friday, March 2, 2018

By: Alana Bowman

Nearly 2,000 Mississippi residents received free dental care at the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry’s second annual Dental Mission Week Feb. 5-10. The total nearly doubled the number served at last year’s inaugural event.

The halls of the school bustled with activity from morning to evening as faculty, students, staff and volunteers saw a record number of patients throughout the week – 1,826 patients who received 4,135 dental procedures worth an estimated $1.05 million in uncompensated care.

“The dental and dental hygiene students had the opportunity to provide high quality dental care to a large contingent of Mississippians who could not otherwise afford it,” said Dr. David Felton, UMMC professor of care planning and restorative dentistry sciences and dean of the School of Dentistry. “While the patients benefitted greatly, our students got to see, first hand, how giving back to those less fortunate can have a dramatic impact on someone’s life.”

Anna Nix, left, pediatric resident, and Burke Ellzey, right, D2, treat Johnson Elementary School student Jamarion Ricks.

Jump-starting the week was Give Kids A Smile Day on Feb. 5. More than 500 students from three local elementary schools and the Stewpot After-School Program received dental care – including cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants – valued at $117,465.

Historically, GKAS day has been on a Friday, but the school shifted to Monday to allow parents an opportunity to bring children back for free follow-up care during Dental Mission Week.

Wilkedria Davis, a teacher at Johnson Elementary School, said for many of the students, especially those who do not have a regular dentist, Dental Mission Week is the first time they have had their teeth cleaned.

State Sen. Hillman Frazier visited the dental school as has been his habit for years. “It’s good to have a chance to reach those who have not had access to dental care,” Frazier said. “I enjoy visiting the dental school, seeing the students walk in with their frowns, very nervous, and walk out with a smile.”

State Sen. Hillman Frazier, center, looks on as Jolie Nguyen, left, D3, and Scarlett Woods, D2, treat elementary school student Khloe Bailey. 

Frazier said he also enjoys getting to see the dental students’ progress each year, from first year to fourth, as they get hands-on experience. He takes this time also to talk with faculty and staff and to learn about the needs of the state’s only dental school. 

On Feb. 8, the school teamed with the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center to provide care for 265 veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, many of whom do not qualify for dental benefits.

“Dental benefits are some of the most restricted by law, so there are a lot of veterans who are eligible for general medical care but not dental care,” said Dr. David Walker, director of the VA Medical Center. “Today is a gift for veterans.”

“This was a huge undertaking for the school and our colleagues, but it was a win-win effort for all,” Felton said. “We’re already working on planning for the 2019 Dental Mission Week activities and hope to continue this effort for many years to come.”