A free dental day will be held Wednesday in Southington as a part of the local dentist association’s continued initiative to help uninsured residents maintain good oral health.
The free dental days have been held about once a month since May when Dr. Ted Zdeblick officially revived the program.
Zdeblick had originally started holding free dental days 10 years ago when Connecticut experienced its last recession. His residency at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford made him more aware of the fact that there was a need for this type of work.
When demand for free dental days slowed Zdeblick stopped holding the events. However, his staff brought it to his attention that free dental days ought to be started again.
According to Zdeblick, since the events’ return, each one has seen 18 to 20 people with a line forming well before the doors opened for the day.
The events, he says, are designed to get patients out of pain. Services include fillings, extractions, and cleanings, but there is also an emphasis on preventative care and teaching patients how to properly care for themselves so they can avoid needing visits in the future.
He estimates that 2 or 3 thousand dollars of services are given away at each event.
This month’s free dental day will be hosted by Dr. Albert Natelli of the Southington Dental Association, a dentist who is no stranger to giving back to the community.
Before getting involved with free dental days in Southington, Natelli worked with Give Kids a Smile, a national program which sets up two day clinics once a year to take care of children’s dental needs.
In addition, Natelli volunteers his time as an unpaid faculty member at the University of Connecticut and has also provided free dentistry in Peru.
“I’ve always believed in giving back to the community and the profession [of dentistry],” said Natelli.
To him, when Zdeblick started the program he was paying it forward to the dentists of Southington. Now, it is their job as dentists to pay it forward again to residents in need.
“I’ve been blessed with a skill,” said Natelli. And I feel that I can serve some other people with that skill, he added.
Natelli and Zdeblick certainly agree that the work they are doing is beneficial, but they are also aware that it is not a permanent solution to the disparity in dental healthcare.
These events are what Natellis calls “little helps.”
“A bunch of a little helps can end up making a solution,” said Natelli.
That is why Dr. Zdeblick would love to see other communities set up similar programs so that the million plus Connecticut residents without dental coverage can have the opportunity to receive needed dental care. However, this he says is a slow process.
In recent years the Connecticut State Dental Association has been doing their part to help cater to the needs of uninsured or underinsured CT residents. Their event, called Mission of Mercy, is another two day event, like Give Kids a Smile, however assisting adults as well.
“No matter how many people we see at these events, there are still people who are not being served,” said Dr. Bruce Tandy, CSDA President and a Vernon dentist.
Because of this, the CSDA has discussed holding smaller more localized events similar to those in Southington, however no concrete plans or timeline have been set at this time.
Tandy says they will continue to work on helping because he does not see the need going away any time soon. These events will also continue because he says they are not just about alleviating pain for patients.
The first goal of these events is to help the citizens of Connecticut, said Tandy. The second goal is to show legislators that there is a need in the state and there is still work to do.
Time: 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Location: Southington Dental Associates 31 Liberty Street, Suite 311
The event will operate on a first-come first-serve basis and is only for residents of Southington.
If you are a dentist who is interested in holding a free dental day feel free to contact Dr. Ted Zdeblick tzdelick at yahoo.com with any questions.