Columbia church creates program to get dental care to those without insurance

dentist office
Posted at 5:02 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 21:07:56-04

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WTVF) — A national survey by the CDC shows about a third of adults haven't had a dental exam in the past year. One of the most common reasons for missing the dentist is a lack of insurance. It's an issue that's felt on an even greater level in rural areas. A place is looking to offer a solution.

The dream for Angela Clardy was long to have a picture of her family, with her two daughters, everyone smiling. A picture like that didn't seem possible at one time.

"I've been an alcoholic for most of my life," said Angela. "I had two daughters I really needed to be there for. I came to the realization I needed help."

Husband Gene moved to Columbia years ago to get away from the problems of his last city.

"I had to get away," he said. "I was on drugs and homeless."

Gene joined a drug treatment center. Living in Columbia, he met Angela.

"It's like I prayed for it and boom," Gene smiled. "Her name's Angela. She's my Angel with an a. That's prayer."

Both said there were steps to get here. Angela said the years of alcoholism led to neglect of her teeth while Gene said the drug-use deteriorated his teeth. Then they heard of a place.

"Generally, we can take care of whatever they need," said Jim Morrison of Duck River Dental Outreach in Columbia.

St. Luke United Methodist started Duck River Dental Outreach as a way to get dental care to people who are low income or are without insurance.

"We have a number of dentists who come in and volunteer their time," said Morrison. "They bring their assistants, and they volunteer their time."

The care comes with a fee on a sliding scale based on household income.

"We feel that people who are invested appreciate it more and get a little more out of it," Morrison said.

"It makes me realize there's more people care about you than don't," Gene said. "You gotta help yourself, though."

Angela and Gene said recovery is a process with many steps, but today Angela has that happy family picture she's wanted.

"I can smile," said Gene, showing his teeth. "Pretty neat. God's good. That's all that is."

"I'm more open with myself when I go out because I can be," Angela added.

Duck River Dental tells us they operate on donations. You can read more about them here.