Volunteerism powers dental service for the underinsured

An organization in Greater Lansing that helps bring smiles to people without dental coverage and to community groups at the same time is looking to expand in the next few months.
Pay It Forward Dental works with volunteer dentists to provide dental work to people who are 250 percent below the poverty line and lack dental coverage. In return, participants receiving dental work agree to volunteer for a certain number of hours in a community organization of their choice. The program launched in January 2014 and is a grant-funded partnership between the Central District Dental Society and Carefree Dental.
"We fill a gap for those people who can barely afford medical care and cannot afford dental coverage," says Patient Coordinator Christina Arriaga. "We find we help a lot of seniors who need more than just basic care."
While administrative services are provided through an office at 5135 S. Pennsylvania Ave., patients receive care at the offices of one of the eight participating volunteer dentists. And while the number of dentists remains steady, the number of people needing care continues to grow.
Because the program has been so well received, Pay It Forward organizers are seeking the help of at least five more dentists to accommodate up to 50 more patients. To date, the program has served 45 patients who have exchanged 1,500 community service hours for their dental care.
"The whole program is about giving back to your local community—both by our patients and by our dentists," says Arriaga. "If we can get more dentists to come on board, we can help more people, who in turn, can volunteer in the community. It's great to see how much the program helps all the way around."
Dentists interested in volunteering in the Pay It Forward Dental program can find more information here.
Sources: Christina Arriaga, Patient Coordinator, Pay It Forward Dental
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
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