July 21, 2011

Virginia Health Care Foundation Pilots Innovative Oral Health Initiative for Uninsured at Mission of Mercy (MOM) in Wise County

RICHMOND, Va., July 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Addressing the significant need for dental services for uninsured Virginians, the Virginia Health Care Foundation (VHCF) announces a special $100,000 initiative in partnership with the Virginia Dental Association Foundation (VDAF) to expand oral health services delivered through VDAF's Mission of Mercy (MOM) projects.

This initiative will help underwrite MOM projects in six new Virginia communities over the next three years; upgrade equipment to improve services at MOMs; and pilot an innovative, low-cost denture product that will make 100 denture units available to 50-75 people at the MOM project in Wise County in this weekend.

MOMs are temporary dental clinics (1-3 days) staffed by a large cadre of dental and lay volunteers and VCU dental students who converge on a community over a weekend, and join with local dentists to provide dental care to the area's uninsured. Typically utilizing about 250 volunteers, a MOM project can treat 500 patients in one day.

Nearly half of all Virginians have no dental insurance. For many, regular visits to the dentist are an expensive luxury, competing with essential household items like food and rent. In communities lacking dental safety net services, MOMs are sometimes the only option for the uninsured seeking treatment.

If the past 49 MOM projects are indicative, extractions will be the most sought- after service this weekend, though cleanings and restorations (fillings) are also provided. "Unfortunately, by the time people come to see us, many are experiencing pain or their teeth are beyond repair. Extractions are their only recourse," said Terry Dickinson, VDAF Executive Director and the founder of MOMs.

"Last year at the Wise MOM, 296 people had five or more teeth extracted," said Debbie Oswalt, VHCF Executive Director. "That's 22 percent of all patients! Over 130 of them had 10 or more teeth extracted."

Once a person loses so many teeth, dentures are necessary, but have been limited for MOM patients, because they are both time-consuming and expensive. Last year, only 31 Wise patients were able to obtain them. "There are 500 former MOM patients on a waiting list for full or partial dentures," said Dickinson.

"We have all been exploring ways to provide affordable, quality dentures to MOM patients," Oswalt remarked, "And were delighted when VDAF asked us to underwrite this project, piloting at the Wise County MOM. If successful, we hope to make the dentures available to all dental safety net programs throughout Virginia."

VHCF is the largest single funder of dental safety net programs in Virginia. Over the past 13 years, it has invested more than $7 million to help establish and expand 37 of the state's 75 community-based dental safety net programs.

"VHCF has been an engaged and helpful partner to the Virginia Dental Association for twelve years, when it provided the funds to equip our very first MOM project," said Dickinson. "We are grateful to VHCF for its continued commitment to MOMs and to expanding and enhancing Virginia's dental safety net."

The Virginia Health Care Foundation is a non-profit public/private partnership with the mission of increasing access to primary health care for uninsured and medically underserved Virginians. Initiated by the General Assembly and its Joint Commission on Health Care in 1992, the Foundation has funded 335 community-based projects across the Commonwealth since its inception, and its programs and partnerships have touched the lives of more than 600,000 uninsured Virginians.

For more information about VHCF and its programs, visit www.vhcf.org or call (804) 828-5804.


Debbie Oswalt, Executive Director

Virginia Health Care Foundation

(804) 828-5804

SOURCE Virginia Health Care Foundation