Project Access

Dentists Delivering Smiles through Project Access

By: Katie Denta, Intern

Howard County Medical Society’s Project Access is a unique outreach program in which volunteer physicians, nurses and hospitals provide comprehensive health care services to uninsured residents in Howard County. Project Access aims to keep people out of the emergency room for unnecessary reasons. One component of Project Access is Dentists Delivering Smiles (DDS). Created by local dentists in 2001, DDS serves to provide emergency dental service to community members who lack any sort of insurance.

Sherry Rayl, Project Access Director, explained “The emergency room is not equipped to help with an infected tooth. That’s why they are sent to DDS on an emergent basis.”

In March of 2012 the Community Foundation of Howard County made a grant to Dentists Delivering Smiles’ denture fund to help provide individuals with partial or full dentures.

Overall, the program’s emergency dental services range from “teeth extractions to crowns, partial and full sets of dentures to root canals,” noted Rayl.

In Kokomo there are around 15 dentists, orthodontics and oral surgeons that makeup DDS. 

Dr. Hal King was a member of DDS before he retired in 1999; today King serves on the DDS board. King said “I think the vision of any program is for it to sustain itself. We are constantly refining the program and trying to do more procedures. Our future plans include recruiting more dentists in the community to participate in DDS, enabling the program to become self-sustaining and keeping DDS going for years to come.”

DDS patient Carl McDonald Sr. explained that the program “took me when others did not or would not take me. They sat down and listened to what I had to say and what I wanted done. It’s been a blessing. People helped with me with a smile and understanding. This has been the best thing that happened to me right now. Without my teeth I was ashamed to laugh or talk to people, but after DDS help I can smile like any human being.”

The program’s positive impact is large and is increasing each year. Dentists Delivering Smiles provided services to 70 patients in 2011. The program served 109 patients in 2012 and is expected to grow in 2013 and beyond.

The Community Foundation believes in the mission of both Project Access and Dentists Delivering Smiles. Access to quality health care services is an essential component to enabling Howard County residents to have a high quality of life. The Community Foundation is excited to watch as the Dentists Delivering Smiles program serves residents of Howard County and continues to grow. Many people have a reason to smile because of Dentists Delivering Smiles.

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