Letters: Public health dentistry

The article in the February ADA News, “For Public Health Dentists, It’s About Helping Those Who Need It Most,” by Kimber Solana brilliantly brings to light the great reward of working in public health and safety net settings. Not only does it feel right for the dentists who choose to do so, but offers personal and enriching opportunities that they might otherwise never experience.

Federally qualified health centers have become critical partners to not only local and state health departments, but also to academia by providing service learning externships for student dentists. This partnership improves access to oral health care for underserved communities, reduces the cost of dental education and exposes the student dentist to many more “real-life versus ideal” learning  experiences, often with complex patients with complex needs. Whether you are the new dentist just bitten by the mission bug, or perhaps, an experienced dentist looking to become more connected and give back, public health dentistry brings us all together in a sometimes very challenging world. As India’s great spiritual leader Mahatma Ghandi has said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Finally, dental students and schools seemed to have discovered this and we must advocate to sustain and galvanize these connections.

I applaud the collaboration of the American Association of Community Dental Programs, National Network for Oral Health Access and American Dental Association for the work they do to support the 6,000 dentists working in dental safety net settings and in dental public health. Hopefully there will be countless others they will inspire to follow in the footsteps of Drs. Huong Le, Alayna Schoblaske and Myron Allukian.
Scott Wolpin, D.M.D.
Onancock, Virginia