Yesmin Wilson, founder and executive director of Rehoboth Life Care Ministries Volunteer Dental Clinic in Houston County, talks about the clinic and the value of a healthy smile.
Q: What is the clinic?
A: We provide a dental home for those who can’t afford dental care in a traditional, private dental setting. We’re a 501(c)(3), Christ-centered dental center providing deeply discounted services for patients under-insured, without insurance or unable to afford care.
Q: Who operates the clinic? How is it funded?
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A: The Rehoboth Baptist Association along with volunteer dentists, volunteer support staff and others who work and donate to keep it going. Rehoboth provides the building at 3208 U.S. 41 N. and caring dental professionals provide services. Others help practically and we’re funded month-to-month through donations, grants and fundraising efforts.
Q: How did the clinic start?
A: I’m a registered nurse and years ago I got involved with health fairs and mobile mini-clinics for migrant workers begun by Central Baptist Church. We saw a need, and a particular need for dental care, and wanted to set up a year-round ministry to provide a very affordable option for dental care. If you can’t afford something you begin not valuing it but good teeth and a healthy mouth are very valuable. For looks and self-esteem but for other very important reasons, too.
Q: So you established this permanent service?
A: As things grew, the Rehoboth association and other churches got involved. In 2007, Tim Millwood, our Rehoboth associational missionary, and key dentists talked about an ongoing clinic and after renovation, we began here in 2008. Renovation funds came from the Georgia Baptist Healthcare Ministry Foundation.
Q: You mentioned it’s about more than pretty teeth?
A: A lot more. For instance, teeth are important to good nutrition. You have to be able to chew to eat for a healthy body. Without teeth, you can’t maintain a healthy jaw bone and it withers. Bad dental health can lead to other issues, even strokes and heart attacks. A simple tooth extraction could have made the difference and kept someone out of the hospital. Our local emergency rooms love us because we’re a good resource and do help people from ending up there.
Q: Other things besides health?
A: There’s an economic and quality of life aspect. Poor dental care and tooth problems, or lack of teeth, can keep people from getting jobs. I know patients who couldn’t get work but after getting their teeth fixed were able to get a job. We also stress dental health education and problem prevention. We don’t want to only stop dental pain and problems but prevent them.
Q: What are some services you provide?
A: They include things like taking care of those acute problems, doing tooth extractions and fillings for children and adults as well as providing dental hygiene and sealants. And our dentists often tell us we’re well organized — though it can get hectic — and that we’re doing a good job staying up-to-date with equipment and first-class care. We rely on new grants and donations for that and believe our patients deserve the best. As far as what we can and can’t do, that sometimes varies a little depending on the dentists and volunteers.
Q: Who qualifies for care at the clinic?
A: Our website has forms and detailed information about who qualifies and how to go about it. But basically, you have to be at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. So we care for people a little above the official poverty line. And roughly, I’ll say a household of one has to make below $18,210 a year and a family of four less than $37,650. But it all has to be looked at.
Q: Do you seek volunteers and support?
A: We’d always love more volunteers, dental professionals and people who can help in other ways. We’d love a great volunteer marketer-fundraiser to join us. We always need donations and grants and other partners. Our website also has ways to donate and be involved.
Q: What’s your site and phone number?
A: It’s careforlifeclinic.com and 478-935-7770. We’re at 3208 U.S. 41 N.
Q: When are you open?
A: Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments for financial screenings to qualify for services are scheduled the first and third Tuesdays between 9 a.m. and noon.
Q: How many patients are being served?
A: Last year we did over 4,000 procedures. It’s not a free service but 69 percent of patients receive a 90 percent or higher discount.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.