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United Way Blog

Volunteers Go Extra Miles for Smiles

After badly damaging her teeth in a car accident, Cathy Seay was in constant pain for years. One day she woke up to find crumbled teeth in her mouth. The restaurant where she was working closed, leaving her unemployed with no insurance.

Then she heard about Appalachian Miles for Smiles (AMS), a mobile dental clinic serving eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. The volunteer dental team extracted 14 of Cathy’s teeth, giving her a new lease on life.

Cathy’s story is not unique. One of the first patients served by the clinic had pulled his own tooth with pliers. Access to dental care, and having the funds to pay for it, is a serious challenge for more than one-third of Americans.

But AMS, an initiative of United Way of Greater Kingsport (TN), Friends in Need and Remote Area Medical, expects to deliver nearly $1 million in free dental services to more than 3,000 adults this year. At each stop, volunteers schedule the appointments, manage the patient intake process, provide lunch for the dental professionals, and more. When the unit is not traveling the region, it delivers dental hygiene care in Kingsport.

Some 1,200 miles away, the Delta Dental Mobile Program provides free preventive, diagnostic and restorative dental care to underserved children across South Dakota and on the state's Native American reservations. Sioux Empire United Way sponsors the mobile program and also leads the annual Sioux Empire Smiles, serving over 130 uninsured/under-insured children over the course of a day. Volunteer dentists, dental assistants and hygienists and others provided services valued at more than $125,000 at last year’s event. And Sioux Area United Way’s relationship with the local hospital systems led to 20 in-kind surgical cases for children in need of extensive care.

Many other United Ways mobilize volunteers to reach people in need and help them build a foundation for a healthy life, creating smiles for miles on end. Is that something you’d like to do?  Contact a United Way near you.

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