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Wake Smiles Gives Wake County Something Big to Smile About

Spotlight on Dr. David Wong
Foundation for Endodontics’ & US Endo Partners’ 2021 Domestic Access to Care Grantee

For 20 years, Wake Smiles has provided dental healthcare services to the thousands of people living below the poverty line in Wake County, NC.  Dr. David Wong became involved as a volunteer in the clinic. “I felt it would be a good opportunity to give back. I always promised myself that once I got out of school I would help the type of clinics that helped me want to become a dentist in the first place.”

Dr. David Wong’s project first established in-house endodontic care at the clinic, operating one day a month. Wong has since properly outfitted the clinic with an endo cart and rotary equipment, opening the door to pursuing other volunteers and expanding their current capabilities to deliver endodontic treatment. “I just recruited my first round of endodontists two weeks ago. They can’t believe we have a dang microscope!” says executive director Sommer Wisher, RDH.

The expanded care is already producing results. One patient in her mid-40s needed two RCTs, several extractions and an upper partial. Wake Smiles secured a prosthodontist for the for the partial and an endodontist who did the two root canals because they were part of an abutment. “That’s an extensive treatment plan for a non-profit. We can’t use all our resources on one person…  Months later, she came in to say thank you and show us all these pictures and tell us about the ‘new smile’ party she gave for her friends and family. She was a different person!” Wisher recalls.

A high percentage of the clinic’s patients live with uncontrolled systemic diseases. The clinic’s interdisciplinary approach incorporates patient education about the relationship between oral and systemic health, and ways to improve both.

“I’d like to think that when we perform endodontic procedures, we restore a small part of someone’s humanity to make them feel whole again. With this project, we collect no monetary gift from patients, but perhaps in exchange, we are also rewarded by a sense of humanity back to us,” said Dr. Wong.

In 2021, the Foundation launched a new funding initiative, its Domestic Access to Care program, to address the urgent need for endodontic specialty care in at-risk populations.  Kicking off with generous backing from U.S. Endo Partners over five years, the funding supports local initiatives led by AAE members who apply for the competitively awarded grants.  All four recipients in this inaugural cycle partnered with community dental clinics.