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Meet the 2023 Domestic Access to Care Grant Awardees

The Foundation for Endodontics' and U.S. Endo Partners' Domestic Access to Care Program aids endodontic specialists in providing access to free endodontic care to underserved patients within the United States. The Foundation believes every endodontist has the capacity to make a significant difference and is proud to empower specialists to serve patients and spread goodwill.  

In the face of the humanitarian crisis stemming from the Ukrainian conflict, the Department of Endodontics at Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine, along with the Ukrainian Refugee Resettlement Project, will render endodontic care to the Ukrainian refugees resettled in the South Florida community. Our collaborative initiative aims to serve those who are financially unable to access crucial dental services, with an emphasis on refugees who are ineligible for Medicaid or lack dental coverage. 

The majority of the Ukrainian refugees are unemployed due to language barriers and pending work visa applications. Those who are 65 and above do not qualify for Medicaid, and even for those who do, limited to no endodontic dental care is covered. This grant will enable the refugees to receive necessary endodontic services, thereby alleviating their pain and discomfort, addressing or avoiding infection, and preventing the unnecessary loss of teeth that could otherwise be saved through endodontic treatment. Dr. Yehuda Benjamin, director of post-graduate endodontics at Nova, leads this project.  

Smile Unto Him provides free dental treatment to low-income veterans and seniors (200% or less of federal poverty guidelines). Patients receive a comprehensive dental evaluation, treatment planning and treatment completion. The patients return for routine hygiene visits to maintain oral health and improved quality of life.  

Smile Unto Him is the only brick-and-mortar free dental clinic in Riverside County, CA, with the aim of providing free dental treatments to low income, under- or uninsured veterans and seniors. Since 2019, the clinic has provided more than $1M in free dental care. Dr. Sue Suh, president of Smile Unto Him, leads this project.  

New York
The “Lift as we Climb” program will provide endodontic specialty care, from access through restoration, to underserved populations in Brooklyn. This project hopes to increase access to specialty care and divert emergent visits to nonurgent or semi-urgent, less expensive, and more effective, oral health care and treatment. Patients who present in the hospital’s emergency room for dental pain will be diverted to in hopes of saving natural teeth and increasing oral health literacy. Five volunteer endodontists will provide treatment in an independent modern treatment center, focusing on low-income individuals who otherwise might never seek specialty care. Dr. Marcus Johnson, Chief of Endodontics at One Brooklyn Hospitals, leads this project.  

The Trident Save-a-Smile Foundation is a collaborative program provides free endodontic treatment to needy, pre-screened patients one day annually. Since its establishment in 2018, the team has provided 114 pro bono root canal procedures. All team members, including providers, dental assistants, sterilization technicians, patient coordinators, and administrators, have graciously donated their 􀆟me and skills towards one Saturday each year, bolstering communities in Howard and Montgomery counties.  

The primary goal of this initiative is to enhance public knowledge regarding oral health and the significance of root canal treatments. The objective is to enlighten the public on the advantages of endodontic care while also debunking any misunderstandings or apprehensions surrounding root canal treatments. Another goal is to provide individuals with the necessary resources and education to prioritize their dental health and encourage them to seek timely treatment when necessary. Dr. Ronald Taylor, founder of Trident Endo, leads this project.  

North Philadelphia is an extremely vulnerable area within the greater metro region regarding poverty and access to proper dental care. Pennsylvania Medicaid does not cover endodontic treatment for anyone over the age of 21. As a result, individuals who need endodontic services and cannot afford to pay have no options available to save their teeth and eliminate any pain and swelling that may be associated with their dental disease. 

Patients are referred to the I.B. Bender Division of Endodontics within the Albert Einstein Medical Center and are evaluated to assess their need for endodontic treatment. When endodontic treatment is indicated, all treatment is performed by endodontic residents under the direct supervision of endodontic faculty. 

This program will benefit both patients and clinicians in that people who would not ordinarily seek specialty care will be able to access it and residents who might not ordinarily assess and treat severe disease will have the opportunity to learn how to manage such cases. Dr. Frederic Barnett, chairman and program director at Einstein, will lead this project.  

Patients are referred to the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine from all over the region. The school serves as one of the only Medicaid providers in the region, and no patient is turned away, regardless of their economic standing. Many patients are referred by their dental home or a federally qualified health center (FQHC).  

All treatment will be performed on campus, home to a recently completed a state-of-the-art Advanced Care Clinic where the endodontic residents practice along with the AEGD Program and the Implant Fellowship Program. The grant will assist with the cost of supplies associated with endodontic surgical procedures which are not covered by Medicaid, allowing the residents to provide and patients to receive additional needed treatment. Dr. Leigh Speer, director of post-graduate endodontics at SIU, will lead this new program.  

The faculty and residents at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio (UTHSCSA) Department of Endodontics have established a partnership with the San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic (SACDC) for an annual day of charitable endodontic service. SACDC provides affordable, accessible dental care to underserved and homeless Bexar County adults living at or below 150% of the federal poverty line, with >50% of the patient cohort served identifying as unhoused.  

Advanced general dentistry residents, dental students, and hygiene students participate in a rotation program that is mutually beneficial. This grant will allow the graduate endodontics department to be incorporated into this program, providing a vital service-learning opportunity to endodontic residents. Dr. Nikita Ruparel, program director at UTHSCSA, will lead this program.  

The Grace Center Texas provides free comprehensive dental care to patients at or below the federal poverty level who do not have or are not eligible to have any private or state funded dental insurance. Patients come from all stages of life and from very diverse backgrounds, including but not limited to: students working on completing requirements to earn a high school degree in order to better provide for themselves and their families; men who were previously incarcerated or homeless and now going through recovery programs for substance and drug abuse; women who are victims of violence and domestic abuse and violence; and individuals or families enrolled in a two-year program helping those who find themselves unhoused as the result of a tragic event beyond their control or evicted resulting from the loss of a job.  

Dr. Kayla Tavares Tio has been the sole endodontist volunteer since 2019. For about one year, she traveled to the clinic with personal endodontic equipment and supplies. In 2020, she opened an endodontic practice, and dedicated time in the schedule to regularly see patients from The Grace Center Texas at no charge.  As The Grace Center Texas patient population grows, this grant will provide more endodontic instruments and supplies to continue serving these patients. Dr. Tavares Tio will lead this project.  

These grants represent a $60,000 investment in Domestic Access to Care initiatives. Congratulations to this year’s awardees! Together, they will serve hundreds of deserving patients in the coming year. Check back often for updates as these projects progress.

1Photo credit: Matthew D’Agostino/UMB