Semi-Annual Report to Seattle Study Club
Activities January 1 – June 30, 2020
Dental Lifeline Network/Seattle Study Club Partnership
The Donated Dental Services (DDS) program helps individuals with disabilities or who are elderly or medically fragile and cannot afford or otherwise access treatment for severe dental conditions. As a result of their ages or disabilities, they cannot work and depend on government assistance for healthcare. Yet Medicare does not provide dental coverage and most state Medicaid programs offer little to no dental benefits for adults. Those states with Medicaid coverage for adult dental services do not cover many procedures such as implants. Further, some individuals with disabilities or who are aged or medically fragile and can work earn just over the income threshold to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford the extensive dental treatment they need. As a result, many people with disabilities or who are aged or medically fragile suffer from seriously neglected dental diseases and have nowhere to turn for help.
Five hundred sixty-five (565) Seattle Study Club (SSC) members volunteer to help these individuals. In 2018, Dental Lifeline Network became the Charitable Partner of SSC and since then, 80 SSC members across 23 states volunteered for the DDS program (included in the 565 total volunteers).
The DDS program serves individuals in every state as well as D.C. Since the program’s inception, 158,925 total patients have received more than $483 million in total care from a volunteer network of 15,318 dentists and nearly 3,444 labs. Nationwide, we helped nearly 9,500 individuals access more than $23 million in services during the 2019-2020 fiscal year that ended June 30.
Seattle Study Club’s Help in Action
One patient helped by the generosity of the Seattle Study Club is Tom, 73, an Army veteran who lives in Minnesota with his wife of nearly 50 years.
When he was a teenager, Tom suffered a spinal cord injury that still causes pain and requires him to use a cane to stay mobile. Tom visits the VA spinal injury center several times a year for ongoing treatment. In addition, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013. After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and surgery, he is now in remission.
Unfortunately, during his cancer treatment, Tom was unable to go to a dentist and his dental health deteriorated significantly. Most of his teeth had become decayed and broken off or were loose. Unable to work due to his health, Tom could not afford dental treatment and is not eligible for dental care through the VA. Though he used to manage condominiums, Tom now must rely on his Social Security Disability benefit and his wife’s limited Social Security income to get by. With monthly bills that equaled his income, dental treatment seemed like a luxury far beyond Tom’s reach.
Thankfully, two generous DDS volunteers—including Dr John Woell, an SSC member—came to Tom’s aid. Dr Woell extracted 12 teeth, restored two others, and with the help of a volunteer laboratory, donated a full upper denture and lower partial denture.
Thanks to these caring volunteers, Tom received more than $9,500 in donated treatment that restored his dental health! He commented on his sincere appreciation for this amazing gift.
Dr W. and his staff were just wonderful. I hadn’t been to a dentist since before my chemotherapy treatments. My wife and I were so worried about my loose and broken teeth but Dr W. made sure I was comfortable and now I can eat real food and SMILE again.
During the first half of 2020, volunteer dentists who are part of the Seattle Study Club helped 287 patients in 32 states:
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We recently audited our database to ensure all SSC members were properly identified, resulting in a significant increase in the number of SSC members helping DDS patients. The 287 patients helped in the first half of 2020 have received $452,162 in donated treatment thus far (214 are still receiving additional treatment services).
We are pleased to share these positive results considering how the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted dentistry. Most dental offices were closed from mid-March through May, except for emergencies. As a result, DDS patients did not receive services unless their needs were urgent. During this time, the DDS Coordinators communicated with applicants, patients and volunteers to update them on the situation. They evaluated the wait list to determine whether applicants still needed services, and conducted intake interviews to qualify more applicants for referral to volunteers when offices reopened. Unfortunately, this unprecedented situation caused us to lose nearly a quarter’s worth of services, and sadly, we served fewer patients and generated less donated treatment than expected.
Fortunately, dental offices have reopened (some on a reduced scale) and DDS patients are being rescheduled. Some dentists are unable to volunteer at this time or cannot help as much as they used to due to the loss of business during the office closures. Laboratories have been especially hard hit and some are not in a position to help as much.
Going forward, we anticipate an increase in the number of requests for help. Many individuals have experienced recent job loss or wage reduction and can no longer afford dental treatment. The DDS program will continue to serve as a resource for vulnerable individuals with nowhere else to turn for help. We truly appreciate the Seattle Study Club’s partnership in providing life-changing care.