InterFaith Health Clinic
“Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond.” (Miguel de Cervantes) This adage rings true with more than 44% of Knox County adults who have had one or more teeth extracted due to infection. Oral health problems and lack of access to affordable dental care are pressing issues in our community, particularly for the low-income uninsured and other under-served individuals. According to the Knox County Health Department, “poor dental health impacts the quality of life for those affected. Pain, diet, social interaction, speech, physical appearance, and self-esteem are issues that many face.” To help reverse this trend, InterFaith Health Clinic proposes Saving Smiles, an oral health care initiative aimed at expanding access to dental care for the under-served. It should be noted that, while we proposed a slightly similar program under the same name during Phase I last year, after a year of thought and research, we are now proposing a very different initiative that we believe will have a far greater long-term impact. Through Saving Smiles, InterFaith would bring together a consortium of oral health care partners to best identify and implement a dental expansion effort in our area that is efficient, effective, and sustainable. Local oral health care leaders would be called upon during Phase 1 to brainstorm the best approach to responding to the oral health crisis in our community, with the expected measurable impact being a dramatic reduction in the percentage of East Tennesseans suffering from dental disease or chronic decay and a marked improvement in the oral health of the under-served in our region. Although outside funding would be necessary to fully implement this initiative, InterFaith recently launched an endowment campaign aimed specifically at this and has obtained a sizable initial gift to improve access to dental care in our community.