Dentistry from the Heart provides free dental care

While Obama Care has made great strides toward providing health insurance for all Americans, many are left without dental insurance and are unable to receive treatment for severe and potentially dangerous dental problems. Charles River Dental in Boston has taken the lead in helping Greater Boston’s uninsured obtain the dental care they need: for the past three years, they have offered free dental care on the Friday before Memorial Day.

Dr. Mark Sivers, dentist at Charles River Dental, offered this day of service through Dentistry from the Heart, a nationwide non-profit started by Florida-based dentist Dr. Vincent Monticciolo to give patients in need access to dental care. On Friday, May 20, Charles River Dental gave free cleanings, extractions and fillings on a first-come, first-served basis.

Fifty volunteers helped make the day of free dental care possible, as did dentists from other local practices.

“We bring in dentists from other dental offices so they get exposed to this and they also learn how to run it. The hope is that they will then run it in their offices,” Sivers said in an interview. “The idea is to spread the movement throughout the U.S.,” Sivers added.

The program has grown over the past three years. In the first year, Sivers and his team saw 74 patients, and last year they saw 103. This year they saw 83. Sivers was looking for a way to give back, and he initially considered doing trips to South America, but he realized there were plenty of people in need right here in Boston.

“For whatever reason, physicians decided many years ago that the mouth wasn’t part of the body … there’s people just struggling to find out, ‘Where can I get care?’” he said.

“Obamacare really doesn’t cover teeth at all,” Seviris added.

Sivers told a story that highlights the event’s importance for people who don’t have dental insurance. “A man comes, lines up here at 4 a.m. and he’s in pain and he’s been in pain for weeks, and he said, ‘You know, I’m not sleeping anyways, so I might as well stand in line so I can get my tooth taken out because it’s causing me so much pain.’”

Patients who had attended past free-care events had only glowing things to say about the office.

“I would recommend these guys definitely,” patient Jeamene Atkins said, who had just had a tooth extracted. “If you’re terrified [of dentists], you come here. They put you at ease, make you feel at home, explain to you everything they’re doing.”

“The level [of care] I’ve received since I’ve been here is really really good … I feel comfortable sitting in the chair. They try to make you as comfortable as possible, and I really like that,” patient Darnley Corbin said.

Another patient, Julie G., came in for a filling for a tooth that had been bothering her for a couple of months.

“I realized that if I let it go, I might lose the tooth and I could get an infection,” Julie said.

For Julie, dental health is critically important.

“It is a component of health that we need to consider. There’s so many people who don’t even go to cleanings, who don’t know where to go.”

Lizzie Short

Lizzie Short is a freelance writer in New England.