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Wisconsin dentists provide over $730,000 in charitable care

The Wisconsin Dental Association Foundation provided over $730,000 in charitable dental care to state residents in the previous 12 months.

The foundation’s Donated Dental Services Program administered this care to 177 disabled, senior, uninsured and low-income adults in the past year. Dental labs also pitched in $44,833 in materials and services.

“Despite the fact that many people have private dental insurance and the state does provide programs for certain audiences in the state of Wisconsin, there’s still many people who fall through the cracks,” says Dennis Peterson, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Wisconsin.

He says the program goes “a long way” toward helping those who have been overlooked.

Patients in the DDS program don’t qualify for assistance from the government and can’t afford oral care because disability, illness or age limits their ability to make money. Referral coordinators interview prospective patients and evaluate their financial need.

Those accepted will visit with a volunteer dentist to be examined. That dentist then gets the choice to accept the patient, or not. The WDA says the patients admitted often need “extensive” work, with an average cost of over $4,000 per person.

Tarah Gerner, a DDS volunteer and general dentist in New Berlin, said participating has been “such a rewarding experience.”

“I am so glad we have the opportunity to be a part of something that impacts so many people in a big way,” she said. “The gratitude we receive from patients is heartwarming and giving someone a smile back is something that never gets old.”

The state and Delta Dental of Wisconsin Charitable Fund pitch in money for administrative and lab costs, but most comes from the volunteer dentists. WDA says those care providers often donate over $13 in treatment, materials and expertise for every dollar that comes from the state.

Mark Moss, dental director for the state Department of Health Services, calls DDS an “outstanding program.”

“I think it’s part of our obligation,” said Robb Warren, a participating dentist based in Madison. “It’s part of our oath as dentists to serve and help others, and that’s a wonderful opportunity to share your time and talents you’ve been given with someone else.”

Since the DDS program was started in 1998, about 850 dentists have given over $11.2 million in care for free to over 3,700 adults. On top of that, about $790,000 has been donated by 159 different dental labs.

“It’s the kind of program where the impact is so great, and the input is relatively modest -- we get quite a bang for the buck here,” Moss added.

Peterson also said that despite the positive results achieved so far, “the work’s not done.”

“We’re going to be there with donated dental services as long as it takes, as many people as their are that need help -- we will be there to assist and support,” he said.

--By Alex Moe


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