Nashville-based Interfaith Dental Clinic aims to make its community healthier by providing oral health care for those experiencing poverty. Awarded the silver medal in the oral health category of the 2017 Henry Schein Cares Medal program, Interfaith believes in the power of oral health care to transform lives.
In this blog, the CEO of Interfaith Dental Clinic, Rhonda Switzer-Nadasdi, D.M.D., shares how the team transforms smiles and changes lives.
A Smile Changes Everything
Interfaith Dental believes everyone is worthy of a whole, healthy smile.
Every day, we seek to improve the oral health, and therefore overall health, of our neighbors that are experiencing poverty. We do this by partnering with people in need and helping them achieve their unique oral health goals. In this way, our work is long lasting and transformational.
Teams of volunteers, dental professionals in training, and paid staff help patients gain success through timely, patient-centered, scientifically based, and cost-effective care. Our focus is not on the number of procedures or even the number of patients cared for, but rather the number of patients that get well and stay well.
Where possible, patients contribute to the cost of their care based on their income, but vital services are not denied due to inability to pay. Patients choose treatment options based on their short-term budget, long-term budget, and ability to manage their health. To maintain this model, the clinic keeps overhead and treatment costs unbelievably low, but nothing would be possible without our generous, awesome donors that make up for the lack of cost recoupment.
In Nashville, poverty is on the rise.
Demand for our care is way beyond our capacity and every day we must consciously turn families away. This certainly takes its toll on all of us.
We would love to be able to say yes to the each of the more than 100 calls that come in a day. To meet this challenge, we’ve started a monthly gathering of others in Middle Tennesse who are serving the dental needs of the poor. Together, we have created a more knowledgeable referral network, promoted the unique strengths of each provider, and shared a dynamic listing of clinic options for patients.
However, it is going to take more than just dentists to move the needle. The low level of oral health education and the depth of oral disease we see in this population is often comparable or worse than some third world countries. For this reason, we need to engage deeper with medical providers in screening, providing oral health information, navigation, and advocacy.
Every dollar, free supply, or volunteer hour that Interfaith Dental receives means another person is closer to getting their smile, their health, and sometimes even their life back.
The Henry Schein Cares Medal, its financial award, and free supplies have meant that 40 more people will be able to come in for care this year. When we don’t have enough resources, we have to turn people away. So for our team, this is huge. We can say yes!
In a larger sense, the medal has validated our work. We thought we were “getting it right,” but to have a panel of judges with expertise in philanthropy and health care agree, it’s a real stamp of approval. Also, having the Henry Schein Cares Foundation, which has experience in engaging with so many wonderful efforts, give us the honor has been a massive boost to morale.
We will be sharing this recognition with hopes that it will encourage others to join us in our work.
Looking ahead, there is still much to do and to learn.
One exciting new tool for us is silver diamine fluoride, which shows great promise in our practice for reducing tooth morbidity. However, there is a still a great deal of work to do to educate communities and volunteers about its use. Meanwhile, incorporating teledentistry into our system is another exciting opportunity, with the potential to reduce our costs in the long term.
One area where we are really looking to make some headway is improving our community presence.
This fall we are thrilled to have two Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHCs) on our team. They’ll enhance our ability to remove barriers to care, such as childcare and transportation, and increase oral health knowledge at a community level. However, our most exciting plan is to move to a larger facility! We will cohabitate with other like-minded social service nonprofits and be able to share space and ideas.
We think big!
If you are in the area, please stop in and see us! We would love to show you the great work being done by those who care. Thank you, because a smile changes everything!
Rhonda Switzer-Nadasdi, D.M.D., is Chief Executive Officer of Interfaith Dental Clinic
Learn more about the Henry Schein Cares Medal program and how it recognizes excellence in expanding access to animal health care in this letter from the HSCF Co-Chair, Dr. Louis Sullivan.