Dental services put smiles on faces

3 mins read

Photo above: The Smile Mobile dental program provided free dental care by volunteer dentists. Photos by Gary Markham.

By Bob Ellis 

Helping those less fortunate is an honorable pursuit. Easing their dental pain and discomfort is something special.

After two years of planning, refitting and fundraising with its partners, the Sea Island Rotary Club launched its Smile Mobile dental outreach program on April 1 at Penn Center on St. Helena. 

After her exam and treatment, Pearl Singleton — one of a dozen patients seen that day at the Smile Mobile’s grand opening —hugged Sea Island Rotary volunteers.

“I’ve been in pain from this tooth for three months and you took that pain away,” she said, adding that she had been unable to afford regular dental care and had nowhere to turn until she heard about the Smile Mobile.

The Smile Mobile program provides free dental care by volunteer dentists and dental assistants from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month at various locations in Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton communities.

With two dental chairs, the Smile Mobile is a clean unit with state-of-the-art sterilized equipment and is outfitted for basic dental surgery and restorative dentistry. It’s X ray-equipped and its pharmacy dispenses basic pain relievers and antibiotics. (No narcotics are available.)

The program’s mission is to treat the Lowcountry adults who live at least 200 percent below the federal poverty level with little or no access to dental care and whose deteriorating dental condition might keep them from work or school. 

Appointments for the Smile Mobile are scheduled through AccessHealth Lowcountry. 

According to AHL director Deborah Slazyk, potential patients should first seek a referral from Bluffton/Jasper Volunteers in Medicine (843-706-7090; bjvim.org), the Good Neighbor Free Medical Clinic of Beaufort (843-470-9088; gnfmcbeaufort.org) or an AHL case manager (843-522-5750; www.accesshealthlowcountry-org). 

The Sea Island Rotary Smile Mobile is run in conjunction with and supported by Beaufort Jasper Hampton Comprehensive Health Services.

The program was made possible after Sea Island Rotary raised $16,000 — largely through its charity shrimp race held each October — and AccessHealth Lowcountry, Bluffton/Jasper VIM and Beaufort County Human Services Alliance each donated $5,000 toward the retrofitting of the Smile Mobile’s second dental operatory.

Dr. Chuck Ingle, who worked for two years with Dr. Ed Wise, Dr. Mike Gold and John Perrill on behalf of Sea Island Rotary to launch the Smile Mobile outreach, said:, “This is a much-needed dental program for our community. When you start peeling the layers of our society back, there are a lot of Lowcountry folks who miss school, work, and suffer poor health because of their bad teeth.”

Dentists and dental assistants interested in volunteering for the Smile Mobile can contact Ingle through the Sea Island Rotary at docingle@me.com.

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