One of the most overlooked gaps in healthcare services may just be dental care. Yet more and more research links oral health to overall well-being, better mental health, and improved social and employment opportunities. That’s why two years ago the Culpeper Wellness Foundation Board of Directors approved funds to help low-income uninsured adults in Culpeper get critical dental care. Now, a new partnership is making sure that once the extractions and fillings are completed, these individuals can get regular hygiene visits to maintain their good health.
Milton Pierce, current President of the Rotary Club of Culpeper, was interested in finding a project for the club members, in addition to their local support for Camp Fantastic, scholarships for area students, and efforts to eradicate polio. When he heard Free Clinic Director Chris Miller talking about the limited dental services available for uninsured adults in Culpeper he decided this could be a perfect match.
The Free Clinic currently works with a number of local dentists including Dr. Lee Simpson at Culpeper Dental Associates, Dr. Shannon Butler at Valley Dental Clinic, and Piedmont Regional Dental Clinic. These dentists set aside time to see Free Clinic patients at greatly reduced rates. Since 2016, 120 people have received $70,000 in services, which would have cost much more at full rates.
Pierce, following the Rotary motto of Service Above Self, took a weekend to go to a Rotary training on how to write grants and with information from the Free Clinic, submitted a grant to extend dental care to ongoing exams and cleanings.
Free Clinic director Chris Miller and Piedmont Regional Dental Clinic Director Mary Foley have been talking for several years about how to help patients benefiting from the Foundation’s dental funds maintain their oral health after the work was finished. This year, the Virginia General Assembly passed new regulations that allow dental hygienists to work off site without direct supervision. The grant from Culpeper’s Rotary Club will allow the Free Clinic to have a hygienist from Piedmont onsite once a month. Only clinic dental patients who have finished their critical care will be eligible for this service.
The main objective of Rotary is service – locally and throughout the world. Their community service is directed toward current and critical issues. Good dental health fits this mission.