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Dental charity reaches $250M milestone

Generosity of participating dentists has made Dental Lifeline Network programs a success

January 20, 2014

By Stacie Crozier, ADA News staff


Employment opportunities: George, right, a veteran in the Bronx, gives the thumbs up with DDS volunteer Dr. Martin Schwartz. George said severe and painful dental disease was a barrier to becoming employed. Following treatment, he secured a job as a substance abuse counselor. 

Comprehensive care: Alabama DDS patient Naomi, right, who is blind and suffers from end stage renal disease, received oral surgery from Dr. Phillip Mitchell (not pictured) and dentures from Dr. Wendy Holder, left, to become eligible for an organ transplant. 
Denver—Dental Lifeline Network reached a significant milestone in 2013: more than $250 million in dental services donated to people with disabilities, the elderly or individuals who are medically at risk.

Through its flagship Donated Dental Services, or DDS, program, volunteer dentists and laboratories of DLN (formerly the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped) and its partner organizations in several states have provided dental treatment to 120,000 people.

Founded in Colorado in 1985, DDS serves all 50 states and the District of Columbia. DLN is a charitable affiliate of the American Dental Association.

DDS provides a national safety net to people with special needs who cannot afford care. Donated by more than 15,000 dentists and 3,600 laboratories nationwide, treatment through DDS is comprehensive, unlike care provided through many other dental charities.

"Our success in making dental care accessible to people who critically need it is due to the overwhelming generosity of dentists who willingly contribute their services and staff time and the laboratories that support them," said Fred Leviton, DLN president. "For people who suffer daily with severe pain from fractured teeth, advanced periodontal disease and the inability to eat normally, dental treatment is life-transforming."

More people who are medically fragile are being referred to DDS, Mr. Leviton said, because dental disease can prevent people with chronic health problems from receiving lifesaving medical treatments.


Taking advantage of education: Dr. Roopa Gandhi, right, and Dr. Margaret Drozdowski Maule listen to a presentation during an advanced EBD workshop at ADA Headquarters in October 2013.
"Dental health is a prerequisite for cancer patients who need chemotherapy, candidates for organ transplants or kidney dialysis, people with autoimmune diseases who require lifesaving medications, cardiac patients who cannot be treated surgically and patients with crippling arthritis who need joint replacements," said Mr. Leviton. "For these people, lack of dental therapies can result in progressive illness or premature death. Although some patients are eligible for Medicare, it does not cover dental treatment and, in most states, Medicaid provides little or no dental care for adults."

Since DLN began, it has grown through partnerships with state dental associations. Funding to support the volunteers comes from a variety of sources, including state governments, foundations, dental organizations, and corporate and individual donors.

Considerable support also comes from the dental trade industry, including the Dental Trade Alliance, its member companies and the DTA Foundation, through both financial contributions and donated materials such as teeth, alloy and dental supplies used by dentists and by volunteer laboratories for fabrications.

DDS program coordinators are located throughout the country. Coordinators screen program applicants, match them with volunteer dentists, arrange for laboratory support and specialists as needed and provide logistical coordination between patients and providers. Patients are treated in participating dentists' offices. The average value of treatment is more than $3,000. Every dollar raised or contributed results in more than $10 of professional services.


DLN, headquartered in Denver, was founded in 1974 by Dr. Larry Coffee, a graduate of Northwestern University Dental School. For information, to become a volunteer dentist or laboratory or to make a donation, please visit www.DentalLifeline.org or call 1-888-471-6334.