KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — In an effort to expand dental care across East Tennessee, a university teamed up with local non-profits to host a two-day free dental clinic in Kingsport.
Lincoln Memorial University College of Dental Medicine (LMU-CDM) teamed up with Appalachian Miles for Smiles and Health Wagon to host the free dental clinic Monday, June 6 and Tuesday, June 7 at the Kingsport Farmers Market located at 308 Clinchfield St.
The free clinic will begin at noon on June 6 and 9 a.m. on June 7.
Miles for Smiles operates a mobile dental clinic that allows them to do free x-rays, extractions, fillings, and cleanings. Healthcare providers will perform a variety of services from basic cleanings to extractions that require sedation.
Dr. Denise Terese-Koch is the Dean and Chief Academic Officer for LMU-CDM. Terese-Koch said 31 of 33 East Tennesee counties are health care deserts — meaning they do not have enough medical or dental providers for the population. She said the lack of health care coverage and cost can also prevent people from seeking dental care.
Terese-Koch said untreated dental problems can cause further health problems and disrupt daily life.
“You can have cavities that untreated can lead to nerve problems,” said Terese-Koch. “Which cause toothaches, abscessing… How can you be a productive member of society with it when you’re in pain all the time? We really see this in children that go to school that have toothaches. How can you function? How can you learn when you’re in continual pain?”
This is part of a long-term effort to expand access to dental care across east Tennessee as LMU is opening a College of Dental Medicine in Knoxville this fall, pending accreditation. This will be the first dental college of medicine in East Tennessee in more than 100 years, according to Terese-Koch. The hope is to attract local students to the school and that they return to their communities to set up their own clinics.
“Our students will start seeing patients during their first semester, doing some radiographs, some basic examinations, some prophase,” said Terese-Koch. “We have some agreements with Headstart programs to serve 500 children here in the Tazewell area and we have an agreement with the Elgin Foundation to serve the students and children of East Tennessee that do not have access to care.”
The school plans to open a clinic on campus Aug. 1. It will first be staffed by school faculty and then eventually students as they move through the program.