The Rev. Rebecca Messman became an activist in support of low-cost dental care after she heard the story of a man in her community who extracted four of his own molars because he was in pain and had no money to pay for professional dental services.
“That, for me, really made this such a personal issue, and it’s a thing that a lot of people would assume would never happen in our country,” said Messman, associate pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Herndon.
Messman was one of more than 350 people representing five faith communities that gathered Sunday at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Reston to show their support for affordable dental care in Northern Virginia.
About 63 percent of adults in the region with incomes less than $40,000 have not seen a dentist in the past two years, according to a Northern Virginia Health Foundation survey released in September. This compares to 9 percent of higher-income adults.
Cost of care was cited as the biggest barrier to seeking dental care, according to the survey.
Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement is trying to help make more low-cost dental care available by spearheading a fundraising effort to hire a full-time dentist to serve low-income, uninsured patients at the Northern Virginia Dental Clinic in Sterling.