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WATCH: Smiles abound during Dental Mission Week at UMMC

Garreco was proud to be a part of the 2nd Annual Dental Mission Week, hosted by the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry Feb. 5-10. In addition to donating gypsum and denture materials, Garreco’s Research and Developmental Chemist, Ben Steckling, spent several days at UMMC volunteering his time to help patients in the underserved Mississippi community receive the dental care that they need. Nearly 2,000 Mississippi residents received free dental care at the event, a total which nearly doubled from last year’s inaugural event – 1,826 patients received 4,135 dental procedures worth an estimated $1.05 million in uncompensated care.

“The dental and dental hygiene students had the opportunity to provide high-quality dental care to a large contingent of Mississippians who could not otherwise afford it,” said Dr. David Felton, professor of care planning and restorative dentistry sciences and dean of the school. “While the patients benefitted greatly, our students got to see, first hand, how ‘giving back’ to those less fortunate can have a dramatic impact on someone’s life.”

Dental Mission Week is a joint effort involving volunteers from the Schools of Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions, and Medicine as well as staff from local private dental practices.

In addition to Dental Mission Week, the school also participated in Give Kids A Smile Day on Monday, Feb. 5. More than 500 students from three local elementary schools and the Stewpot After-School Program received free dental care which included cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants which were valued at approximately $117,465.

State Senator Hillman Frazier visited the school during Dental Mission Week. “It’s good to have a chance to reach those who have not had access to dental care,” Frazier said. “I enjoy visiting the dental school, seeing the students walk in with their frowns, very nervous, and walk out with a smile.” Frazier said he also enjoys getting to see the dental students’ progress each year, from first year to fourth, as they have the opportunity to get hands-on experience. He takes this time to talk with faculty and staff, as well, to learn about the needs of the state’s only dental school.

On Feb. 8, the school teamed with the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center to provide care for 265 veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, many of whom do not qualify for dental benefits. “Dental benefits are some of the most restricted by law, so there are a lot of veterans who are eligible for general medical care but not dental care,” Dr. David Walker, director of the VA Medical Center, said. “Today is a gift for veterans.”

“This was a huge undertaking for the school and our colleagues, but it was a win-win effort for all,” Felton said. “We’re already working on planning for the 2019 Dental Mission Week activities and hope to continue this effort for many years to come.”