They say that a smile opens doors and creates possibility. But imagine going to a job interview and being terrified to smile, or fading into the background because happiness is replaced with shame at each thought of missing teeth or other dental issues.
At Father Joe’s Villages, we know that getting back on the road to sustainability can have many steps for our clients. Often it involves putting your best smile front and center. That is why our comprehensive dental services result in a Wall of Smiles.
The U.S. Surgeon General confirms that oral problems affect health and well-being and are particularly severe in vulnerable populations. According to the Special Care Dentistry Association, 10% of homeless persons report that dental care is their most critically needed service as opposed to other services such as food and shelter. Of those reporting, less than 20% had a dental visit within the past 12 months. Many did not have access to dental insurance or simply could not afford the high costs of dental care.
10% of homeless persons report that dental care is their most critically needed service as opposed to other services such as food and shelter.
Often, patients of the Village Family Health Center’s dental clinic are unemployed and looking for work. Poor oral health resulting from poverty and homelessness creates barriers to gaining employment. Employers are more likely to hire individuals whose appearances reflect positively on their businesses. A National Institutes of Health study focusing on welfare recipients, many of whom were homeless, found a significant difference between the level of dental treatment received and the employment outcome. Results showed that participants who completed their dental treatment were twice as likely to obtain favorable/neutral employment outcomes as were those who did not start their treatment.
At the Village Family Health Center, we endeavor to mitigate barriers to dental care by providing basic dental care including cleanings, teeth extractions, cavity fillings and crowns. For the residents of our housing programs who are seeking employment, we take our care a step further by offer restorative dental services. This program provides prosthetics, dentures and partial dentures for those who have severe tooth decay and tooth loss. On average, five sets of dentures or partials are provided per month at our clinic. Before and after photos of our successful clients are presented on the “Wall of Smiles” that hangs in our clinic. By transforming their smiles, we transform our clients’ lives, empowering them to find gainful employment and thereby obtain permanent housing and self-sufficiency.