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Foundation’s Spring Event proceeds to help adult dental program

| Date Posted: 3/23/2011

Darrell Simpkins, M.D.

Darrell Simpkins, M.D.

The following story is the first of two about programs that will benefit from proceeds from the 2011 FirstHealth Montgomery Spring Event.

TROY – In his long career as an emergency physician, Darrell Simpkins, M.D., has seen some pretty extraordinary things pass through emergency room doors.

But he was surprised by the number of adult dental emergencies that make their way into the Emergency Department at FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital. Most involve patients who are uninsured and/or unemployed and can’t afford the follow-up dental treatment they need to keep them out of pain.

“Lots of people come in whose primary complaint is dental problems,” Dr. Simpkins says. “They’re in lots of pain and have nowhere to go. The only thing we can offer is antibiotics, when appropriate, and pain medicine.”

Several years ago, Dr. Simpkins and his wife, Jayne, spearheaded a move to help ease the situation by donating money to be used for adult emergency dental needs. The fund they started has since been adopted by the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation, which this year has made adult dental care one of two beneficiaries of proceeds from its 2011 Spring Event fundraiser.

Money will also support the FirstHealth Dental Care Center in Troy, which provides general dentistry for underserved and uninsured children in Montgomery County.

The Spring Event, with a “Viva Las Casino Night” theme,” will be held Saturday, April 16 at the James H. Garner Center in Troy. The evening will include games of chance, cocktails and heavy hors d’oeuvres.

Casino tables will be open from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., a silent auction will begin at 6:30 p.m., and a live auction will get under way at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 person, and reservations can be made by calling (910) 571-5024. Dress is black tie-optional.

Dr. Simpkins calls the Adult Dental Program “a terrific benefit” for Montgomery County patients, many of whom wind up in the Emergency Department with “cavities to the gum line with lots of swelling and pain.”

“Most of these people have not been to the dentist,” he says. “If so, it’s been years before.”

Since 2006, the Adult Dental Program has disbursed more than $80,000 to help Montgomery County residents with emergency dental procedures. Susan Davey, R.N., the nursing director at Montgomery Memorial, has authorized the disbursement of most of that money, much of it in the form of $275 vouchers that are accepted by four local dental practices.

“These are patients who have no insurance and no means of getting dental care and with bad dental issues,” Davey says.

Because the needs are so great and funds are so limited, Davey says, vouchers can be used only for true dental emergencies – not for dentures, routine dental care, etc. But even by limiting the vouchers to emergency care, funds go only so far to help with problems that sometimes require thousands of dollars to repair.

Patients who qualify for assistance come into Montgomery Memorial’s Emergency Department with “significant pain” and cavities so bad that many times a tooth, or teeth, will have to be extracted, according to Davey.

The adult care issue is compounded by patients who get vouchers and are referred for dental care but don’t follow up with a dentist. In fiscal year 2008, for example, the program had 100 referrals but only 60 patients followed through. In fiscal year 2010, referrals numbered 158 with just 108 follow-throughs.

In the first three months of the current fiscal year (October through December), the program recorded 48 referrals and 29 follow-throughs. One of the follow-through patients was a 53-year-old man who had lost his job and, with the job loss, his insurance.

“This is the exact kind of patient who benefits from this fund,” Davey says.

Vouchers, which expire in 14 days if they aren’t used, are accepted at either of the following dental offices, scattered for patient convenience, throughout Montgomery County: Dr. Donald L. Davis, DDS, 473 Wood St., Troy; Lane & Associates Family Dentistry, 131 Montgomery Crossing, Biscoe; Dr. Johnny McKinnon Jr., DDS, 407 N. Main St., Mt. Gilead; and Dr. Terry V. Wood, DMD, 201 N. Main St., Troy.

Davey would like to see the Adult Dental Program broadened to include education – not only about routine dental care but also about the sometimes serious consequences of poor dental hygiene. These consequences include dangerous infections that can make their way to the heart and brain with sometimes deadly results.

“Not taking care of your teeth is a serious business,” Davey says.

What:   FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation
Spring Event “Viva Las Casino Night”

Saturday, April 16, 6:30 p.m.

Where:  James H. Garner Center, Troy
Reservations: (910) 571-5024. Tickets are $50 per person.
Proceeds will support the Adult Dental Program at FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital and the FirstHealth Dental Care Center in Troy.


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