The western Fairfax County branch of the Northern Virginia Dental Clinic was in operation over a year after its opening but understaffed. The facility had space for four dentists to work but because they relied on local dentists volunteering their time, only one dental chair was in use at any given time.
The clinic serves thousands a year because Virginia is one of 7 states that does not cover dental care for low-income adults. People who cannot afford dental insurance may end up pulling their own teeth or going to one of the underground clinics with higher risk of infection, forgoing preventative treatment and ending up in the emergency room incurring greater taxpayer costs, and loosing employment or top jobs because of missing days off work from dental pain or missing front teeth that are critical to one’s professional presentation. Read the story of Gladys Suarez, a VOICE leader who had to go to an unlicensed dentist.
In 2012 VOICE congregations, St. John Neumann Catholic Church, Unitarian Universalist of Reston, Northern VA Hebrew Congregation and Trinity Presbyterian Church in Herndon, organized $200,000 to fund a full-time dentist at the clinic for two years. They challenged private corporations, Delta Dental, Inova Hospital, Molina Healthcare, Reston Hospital/HCA and the Jon C Burr Foundation, and congregations and individual dentists to match a $100,000 anonymous gift. VOICE worked with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova, Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell, and Del. Ken Plum to deliver the final $60,000. The full time dentist began seeing patients July 1, 2012 and is projected to help the clinic complete an additional 1,500 appointments a year, increasing their annual appointments to 5,000.