For nearly a decade, the North Carolina Missions of Mercy (NCMOM) has been serving dental patients in need.* Since 2009—thanks to the North Carolina Dental Laboratory Association (NCDLA)—the organization has also been able to offer new partials, repairs and relines. Dozens of NCDLA volunteers have participated in 28 clinics and fabricated over 1,200 appliances.
"I can't tell you how valuable it's been to have the NCDLA involved," says Dr. Bill Blaylock, Director of NCMOM. "To be able to look at a patient in triage and tell him that not only can we take him out of pain but we can also restore his smile with a partial has been amazing. It's heartwarming to know the technician-volunteers care so much and want to help patients as much as they can. We couldn't do it without them."
The program holds several two-day clinics each year and serves between 600 to 2,000 patients at each event. After an initial evaluation, patients are directed to the prosthetics area for case planning and an impression. The patient is sent home—or to have teeth extracted—and returns the following day for his appliance. All impressions, extractions and deliveries are performed by dentists in the North Carolina Dental Society.
Clinics are often held in churches or schools and Steve Stroud, CDT and Co-Chairman of the NCDLA MOM Committee, organizes the laboratory on site and sets up each bench for the technician-volunteers. The NCDLA has collected donations and provides two truckloads of larger equipment for them to use, including model grinders, ovens, lathes, vibrators and more. Heraeus Kulzer furnishes all of the teeth for NCMOM events and the rest of the materials are provided through a grant to the state's dental society.
"Watching the patients receive their partials is a very humbling experience," says Arey Grady, CDT, Owner of Grady Dental Lab, Kinston, NC, and Chairman of the NCDLA MOM committee. "We encourage the patients to come by the lab and meet the person who designed and fabricated the appliance. We get many hugs and tears from happy patients."
One patient Grady remembers is a teenager with a decayed upper lateral; he hid his smile behind his hand. "After his appliance was delivered, he was unbelievably appreciative and he thanked and hugged everyone...and it was then we found out his senior high school pictures were being taken on the following Monday. 'Now I can smile' he said; he was beaming," recalls Grady.
Grady is passionate about helping others and encourages technicians to get involved. "Let's work together to make a difference in another person's life," he says. "I believe it's the right thing to do."
For more information on the NCMOM, visit www.ncdental.org/ncds/NCMOM.asp or contact Arey Grady at 800-331-1381.
* Last year, NCMOM, which is sponsored by the North Carolina Dental Society (NCDS), provided over $5.8 million in free dental treatment--including cleanings, fillings and extractions—to over 9,000 of the state's underserved residents.