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Dental Students Provide Care for the Homeless

Written by Adam Zewe

More than 50 UMSOD students provided free dental care for homeless adults and children at the fifth annual Anne Arundel County Homeless Resource Day. The School of Dentistry has participated in the outreach effort for the past four years.

Nearly 700 underserved individuals from around the county attended Resource Day, which was held at Glen Burnie High School. Eighty-three organizations offered an array of free services, from substance abuse counseling to blood pressure screenings.

Third- and fourth-year dental students gathered in the crowded gymnasium to provide comprehensive dental exams for more than 150 people. While more experienced students offered treatment, first- and second-year students provided oral health care education to adults and children.

The exams were critical for many patients who suffered from tooth decay and severe orofacial pain, explains Professor Howard Strassler, DMD. Dr. Strassler organized the student volunteers for Homeless Resource Day. Volunteers encountered a range of oral disease, including advanced oral lesions which could become cancerous. Some patients were referred to oral surgeons and students emphasized the importance of follow-up treatment.

Many of these patients would never see a dentist if Resource Day did not exist. However, the event also benefits dental students, who learn the value of serving those in need, Dr. Strassler states. "Hopefully, this will carry through to the way our students practice dentistry. I hope they'll find time in their schedules, and they'll find a place in their hearts and souls, to provide care for the less fortunate," he remarks.

For Bill Hackett, DDS '12, treating homeless families was extremely rewarding. He hopes his efforts inspire some patients to pay more attention to their oral health. "It was nice to be able to share my knowledge with these patients. It's rewarding to see parents understand what you're saying about their oral health and the ramifications for their kids," states Hackett.

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