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When we make an appointment to see an endodontist, there is usually a pressing reason to do so: an infected tooth needs a root canal, a tooth has been dislodged or knocked out and needs to be placed back in the mouth, etc. While we can’t always avoid situations that lead us to needing endodontic treatment, there are actions we can take that will lower our risk of suffering infected or damaged teeth. Here are a few dental care tips to get your new year off to a great start.
Dental Care Tips for 2017: Priorities for Protecting Your Teeth!
“Even though proper dental care can’t guarantee that you won’t need to see an endodontist in 2017, it will improve your dental health overall, and that should help you bounce back from any challenges to your teeth that might come your way,” says Dr. Susan L. Wood, who practices with the Phoenix Endodontic Group.
Dental Missions of Mercy originated in the mid-west over 15 years ago and have helped countless members of the underserved oral health care community, to achieve smiles that they never thought possible.
A mission can be defined as “a strongly felt aim, ambition, or calling” while mercy can mean “an act of kindness, compassion or favor”. I remember when I applied to dental school, the standard question as to why I wanted to be a dentist was asked of me and I answered with the standard reply: “because I feel a calling to help people and to show compassion”. There is so much truth to that answer, yet those who have applied to dental school before you, always tell you to not answer that question with: “to help people.” Why isn’t that an acceptable answer? Why CAN’T that be my answer??
If you ask almost any dentist that volunteers at Missions of Mercy throughout this country why they do so, I would bet that their overwhelming response would be that they get to help those people that cannot afford the dental care we provide to our “regular” patients. As for me, I am a dentist because I truly do want to help people, but I continued on after dental school, to become an endodontist, because I had the overwhelming desire to help patients save their natural teeth. That desire applies to EVERY patient, not just the ones that may be able to afford my services outside of events like these.
I started volunteering at Missions of Mercy when I lived in Colorado the year after I finished my endodontic residency in 2006, and have only missed ONE event since then (due to an emergency C-section that occurred two weeks before one was to be held). As I write this, I am thinking back to the very first time I was exposed to this amazing program. I was on the Board of Trustees for a local Colorado Dental Society and helped organize the state’s very first “MOM” (befittingly now used as a ‘slang’ for these missions). I mentioned the upcoming program to my team and every assistant and office personnel, wanted to volunteer. Because I had several other partners that could not attend and therefore needed some staff to stay behind, we held a “lottery” to decide who would go with me, because EVERYONE would have, if given the chance. Keep in mind, this is an event that we ALL volunteer for; no one, including my staff, was getting paid to do this and they were FIGHTING to go with me!!
Once we finally had our team together and set-off for the “great unknown”, which just so happened to include severe weather on-route to a remote spot in the mountains of CO, to set up our equipment. My amazing team packed every single creature comfort from the office they could think of, right down to my own chair, in an attempt to make the procedures that we would perform on the “less-fortunate”, as close to the “more-fortunate”, as possible. After a small learning curve we got into a groove and ended up performing more root canals in 24 hours, than we could do in our office, in a week.
Patient’s endure the long lines and inclement weather in the middle of the night, because they have nowhere else to turn for help with their dental needs. They are clearly at a point in their lives when they have no other choice, but to wait for hours on end, in the hopes of having at least some of their needs, taken care of at NO cost to them. Other than their time.
At my first event, the very last patient that I saw, was a woman that was badly bruised and swollen, from a domestic violence event that had occurred just two days prior. In the scuffle with her estranged husband, she was hit in the mouth with a chair, which broke several of her front teeth off. After three root canals done by me and my team, I sent her over to one of my fellow restorative dentists, that built the teeth back up and together, we recreated her smile, and her hope. At that event, we also had social workers who had volunteered for other roles, and I enlisted one of them to speak to her, about her domestic violence issue. I never knew what happened to her; if she found a way out of the position that she was in, if she was okay, or even alive. Two years later, I got my answer. That same woman came to another MOM event in a different city. She didn’t come to have more dental work done; she came to find me and my team and to tell us, that after her experience at MOMs, she left her abusive husband, found a well-paying job in a different town, and was there to volunteer for the very event that helped change her life!!
Another story more recently here in Arizona also touched my heart and is something I will not soon forget. We had a male patient that had several very decayed teeth that were obviously from smoking meth (known in the dental community as “meth mouth”). I questioned the patient about possible drug use, because it is important for them to know that if they continue using this drug, any work that they receive at the event, will definitely fail, and it would be safer, for the teeth to be removed. This patient confided in us, that he had enlisted in the military at age 17 and actually went to war in the Middle East. He retold the countless horrors and deaths that he had witnessed at a very young age, only to return to this country, feeling completely lost and alone. His downward spiral left him homeless and with a horrible addiction to meth. When we met him, he had been “clean” for over 8 months and was attempting to rejoin society, but his “rotten teeth” were preventing him from finding much in the way of employment. I performed root canal procedures on three teeth and placed posts and build-ups. And since these events are now equipped to make crowns, or “caps” in just a few hours, he had those done as well. After his treatment at the Mission of Mercy was complete, he came back to where my team and I were still doing root canals, and thanked us profusely and said that he had never been treated more kindly, than he did at this incredible event. And that his confidence was better than it ever had been.
After doing these events for so many years, I have numerous stories that I could tell that would explain why I volunteer. But if just these two that I have told cannot explain that, then I never deserved to answer the question of why I wanted to be a dentist, the way I did. Missions of Mercy HELP people; perhaps the people who need us the most, and rest assured that once you volunteer, you will ALWAYS volunteer!!