Dallas dentists pitch in to help evacuees

09:38 AM CDT on Monday, September 12, 2005
By DR. LINDA NIESSEN / Baylor College of Dentistry

In Dallas alone, dentists have found more than 1,500 serious dental cases among the evacuee population.

North Texas dentists are volunteering their services to treat these new patients.

The pain of a toothache only adds to evacuee Yolanda Carter's misery. The memories of the New Orleans flood and aftermath still haunt her.

"It's just been horrible," Carter said. "It was fighting, shootings, stabbings, because everyone wanted to get out."

Baylor College of Dentistry is providing emergency treatment for evacuees. Yolanda and her niece Tamika Lewis are two of the first patients.

"The pain is so horrible," Lewis said. "I'm like, 'where is this pain coming from?' So it's awful."

Dr. Robert Smith of Garland is one of the volunteers from the Dallas County Dental Society.

"The problems we're seeing are acute pain," Smith said. "We're seeing things like lost dentures in floods, your normal tooth ache, teeth that have gotten broken in the storm. Things like that."

"You're not healthy without good oral health," said the Dental Society's Jane Evans. "And it will affect you in many other ways."

Barbara Armstrong lost her dentures, but a new set will be ready soon.

"I lost everything, so they brought me here to Dallas for safety," Armstrong said. "I thank Dallas for everything.")

Dr. Kent Smith of Irving has volunteered the services of his entire staff.

"There are so many ways we can help," Smith said. "Just something little, something that we can do that takes very little time can make such a profound effect on somebody's health."

Lack of access to needed dental care existed in Dallas before the evacuees arrived. Now their needs, and the needs of those who live here, have made this task an even greater challenge for the North Texas dental community.

Dentists who wish to volunteer to help the evacuees should call the Dallas County Dental Society at 972-386-5741 or online at dcds.org