“I was born with a hole in my heart,” he explained, shifting to a more comfortable position in his patient chair. Tim Daugherty waited excitedly for the dentist to arrive for his last appointment at the Mobile Dental van – where they will pull out his seven remaining teeth. They say when you take care of your teeth, you take care of your entire body – especially your heart. In Tim’s case, it was the reverse – his weak heart led to even weaker teeth, endangering his overall health.
“When I was little and had infections or the flu, I would have high fevers. I couldn’t take anything because of my heart. So, my calcium didn’t form completely – especially in my mouth,” Tim said, his joy showing through his wide, open grin.
If you could imagine walking into your first surgery at 7 years old to have a hole in your heart sewn up, this was just the beginning of Tim’s lifelong health struggles. He rotated through hundreds of dentists’ and doctors’ doors throughout his life, the burden of healthcare expenses weighing down on him.
In 2005, excited to take on a new chapter and invest in his family, Tim moved to Ohio to help take care of his grandchildren. His hope turned to turmoil when, soon after moving, his teeth started to crack and break. Even something as simple as eating breakfast or drinking water became excruciatingly painful. At one point, he could only eat food in liquid form through a straw.
“Over time, my teeth would break, and they’d put crowns on them. It got to the point where I had more gums showing than teeth. Then, I couldn’t eat much because of my gums.”
At 55 years old, Tim came face-to-face with one of his toughest decisions. Forced to retire early from his debilitating and declining health, he went on disability. With a mouth full of breaking teeth and little money to pay for care, Tim was faced with a future full of uncertainty.
But there was hope around the corner. Because of Medical Teams Mobile Dental, Tim was able to find the affordable care he needed and put an end to his lifelong dental issues.
“From then, Josh [the Mobile Dental Clinic Manager] got involved and everything was done. He went to bat for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to show how much I appreciate it. He’s always greeted me with a smile. You just don’t see that in a lot of places anymore.”
Tim’s heart condition made the process tricky. The blood thinners he took for his heart condition made pulling teeth difficult and – by many dentists – unallowed without approval from a doctor. Medical Teams’ Mobile Dental Clinic Manager Josh worked to find a doctor who would test and approve Tim to have his remaining teeth removed. From there, he could get dentures and eat and drink normally again.
Even though he’s experienced dramatic health challenges, you could still sense the overwhelming hope in Tim’s voice. “I’ve been going to doctors and dentists my whole life. The Mobile Dental people really take care of me, and they listened.”
Deserts Across the U.S.
Tim is not alone in his journey to find affordable dental care. Across the United States, there are areas known as “Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas” – or “dental care deserts.” In Oregon, where Medical Teams headquarters is based, 43 percent of residents live in rural areas with dental care shortages in every county across the state. In Washington, only 30 percent of individuals have their dental needs met.
We are concerned about the thousands of people, like Tim, who are without dental insurance who can’t afford this life-saving care. Imagine having to travel multiple hours just to see a dentist, and then not being able to afford it. We are in a dental care crisis where the need is greater than the ability to fulfill it.
With Medical Teams Mobile Dental program, we are going into the dental care deserts. We are trying to put a dent in growing dental care wait lists in remote parts of our country. We are finding people like Tim and empowering them to live their life without the burden of health issues or expensive care.
Minutes away from having the last of his teeth removed, Tim still radiated joy.
“It’s a fabulous program,” he said about his experience with Mobile Dental. “All these people that have been here for me – they do it with a smile. You don’t always get that when you go to a workplace.”
There are thousands of people like Tim in desperate need of dental care. We need your help. Mobile Dental needs volunteer dentists and people who can give their time and resources to keep this program alive. To enable people like Tim to live their life free of dental pain.
As the dentist pulled up to the van, Tim said,
“I like to live and laugh. I’m just really looking forward to a full smile.”
Making Care Mobile
Medical Teams Mobile Dental has 11 vans that currently travel all over Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. The goal is to expand our program beyond the Pacific Northwest to more individuals across the country in need of care.
Once on the van, our dentist and hygienists will greet you with a warm smile.
Inside the van, dentists have access to X-Rays, equipment, dental cleaning products, and everything you would find in your average dental office.
Mary, Seaside Mobile Dental patient – an area where the Mobile Dental waiting list is over 130 people. On average, a Mobile Dental Clinic can serve 15-20 people in one day.
You can help fill the gaps in dental care. Give today and help bring clinics to patients like Tim.