I’m Gladys Suarez. I live in Reston, VA, attend St John Nuemann Catholic Church and I need access to dental care. Virginia is one of 7 states that does not offer dental care for low-income adults.. People like me with diabetes are two times more likely to develop gum disease, but my income does not allow me or my daughter to have dental insurance to regularly visit the dentist. In order to get care I went to see an unlicensed dentist. But after the visit, I ended up in the hospital emergency room because I got an infection. Unfortunately, stories like mine are all too common because there are thousands of low income adults living in Northern Virginia with inadequate access to dental care.
After my dental scare I got involved with VOICE as a leader from my parish. I worked on VOICE’s Dental Campaign to win $200,000 to hire a dentist serving low income adults in Western Fairfax County. Through the campaign I’ve run meetings, helped turnout people from my church living without dental care, and told my story at a 350 person action. This campaign was so important to me that I took time off from work, without pay, to give witness to the need for dental care. I have met with elected officials and hospital CEO’s to tell my story about the need for dental care. After six-months of diligent work, I am so proud to say our work paid off. Starting July 1, 2012 we will have a full-time dentists at the Northern Virginia Dental Clinic in Sterling, VA. The dentists projected to help the clinic complete an additional 1,500 appointments a year, increasing their annual appointments to 5,000.