Dental patient smiles after receiving free dentures through the ADF/ASDOH Denture Project

In 2008, the Arizona Dental Foundation (ADF) teamed with A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) to provide free dentures for edentulous individuals in Maricopa County. This year, six patients received full dentures thanks to the generosity of local labs and fourth-year ATSU-ASDOH students. What follows is the experience of one patient in the program.

Barbara, age 69, was diagnosed as having “chalk teeth” at a young age. By the time she was 12, all but four teeth had been extracted. In the last couple of years she experienced ever increasing pain from periodontal disease and a cracked upper denture.

Unable to obtain assistance through local clinics she was referred to the Arizona Dental Foundation (ADF). Because of her inability to pay for dental care through any other means, but having strong physical health, Barbara was a perfect candidate for the ADF/ASDOH Denture Project. After completing a preliminary application she was referred to oral surgeon Dr. Donald Johnson for extractions.

At first she was apprehensive presenting as a charity case but, she said, found the doctor and his staff to be both “understanding and generous.” Once she had healed, Barbara began regular visits to the ASDOH Dental Clinic in Mesa, Ariz., a 104-mile round trip. She reported to ADF that the students were “kind, pleasant, instructional, and very accommodating” and that she “never felt inferior to the paying patients.”

After a few minor adjustments Barbara is comfortable that the dentures fit perfectly now. She says her newfound confidence is immeasurable. She can smile without worrying about what others think and, she exclaimed, “Best of all, I can eat real food! While waiting for my dentures, I had to blend all of my food. Imagine liquid spaghetti for dinner.” Barbara reports that she has regained her energy because the pain and stress of finding dental care are gone. “I was beginning to panic and had no hope left. Now every night when I clean my teeth I think of each person who helped me and I say thank you in my heart.”

The Arizona Dental Foundation gratefully acknowledges the following dental laboratories for their compassion to help change the lives of someone they may never know by donating dentures to this project: Bravo Dental Lab, Deutsch Dental Arts, and Enhanced Prosthetics Lab.

INSCRIPTIONS, Journal of the Arizona Dental Association, vol. 24, no. 6, Jan 2010. Reprinted with permission.