Whether you have experienced it, everyone
knows how uncomfortable life can be with
dental pain. Pain caused by infection, mobility,
malocclusion and TMD issues or embarrassment
from missing teeth can make daily living miserable.
Now, imagine not being able to do anything about these disorders
because of physical, mental, emotional or financial challenges,
challenges that trump any possibility of restitution.
With nowhere to turn for help, these people are often led down
the path toward complete despair.
This nightmare is reality for many. Like every other state in
the United States, Oklahoma has its share of these unfortunate
people. When this agonizing scenario infiltrates the lives of compromised
victims trying to cope with their maladies, most state
and local agencies are ill-equipped, unable or unlawfully allowed
to intervene. These individuals often end up in a hospital emergency
room for relief or simply suffer without treatment.
In April of 2003, Pamela Beard and Margaret Lippert, two
benevolent and altruistic women, came before the Executive
Board of the Tulsa County Dental Society with a plea to protect
and preserve the Tulsa branch of an existing donated
dental service program (D-Dent) in Oklahoma City. Pam's
and Margaret's efforts to provide local citizens with the care
they so desperately needed were conflicted by those higher up
in the system.
During the next couple of months as then-vice-president of
the Tulsa County Dental Society, I put together a task force committee
to study the feasibility of forming a local organization
supported by local agencies that would provide donated dental
service to locals without the resources or opportunity to receive
dental treatment. Dr. Steven Lusk chaired the committee and
later became the first president of the EODDS Board of
Directors. He discovered that the need for Tulsa-area dentists to
provide donated services was substantial, actually overwhelming.
In June of that same year, Eastern Oklahoma
Donated Dental Services, Inc., was formed in Tulsa
to ensure the provision of comprehensive dental care
to financially challenged Oklahomans residing in
the eastern half of the state. Local dentists – 144 of
them – joined as charter member dentists and began
providing complete dental services to these qualified
patients. At that time, patients who "qualified" for
the program were 65 or older with mental or physical
disabilities. The treatment rendered for these
patients now comprises Phase I. The Vulnerable Populations
Program (or Phase II) was created to address the dental needs
of financial challenged patients, regardless of age, who suffer
with personal, mental or physical needs. With certain limitations,
patients receive whatever care they need from every
discipline of dentistry, including operative, fixed and removable
prosthetics, periodontics, oral surgery, orthodontics,
TMD therapy and implants. The administrative staff coordinates
the participation of member dentists to complete
each patient's case.
EODDS' success is due to a few individuals' determination.
Pamela Beard, the current executive administrator and
Margaret Lippert, assistant director, have demonstrated the
courage and compassion for seeking the participation of area
dentists to provide the necessary care to heal those with no
other options for help. Diligently working with area philanthropic
organizations and corporate agencies, their efforts led
to EODDS's nomination for the Non-profit Organization of
the Year in Oklahoma, just four years after it was formed.
Dr. Gary Burnidge has also been instrumental. As an
oral maxillofacial surgeon, he was selected as the Tulsa
People's Volunteer of the Year for Commitment to receive
the highest award in this category because of his dedication
and concern for aiding the less fortunate with dental issues.
Dr. Burnidge says: "The beauty of the organization is that
it allows dentists to perform procedures in their own offices
on challenged patients just as though they were paying for
the services. Great care is taken to preserve patient dignity
Oklahoma is just one state, but EODDS has a significant
impact. Since EODDS was incorporated in January of
2004, more than 300 member dentists now provide dental
services to eastern Oklahomans. Last year alone, participating
dentists provided approximately $4 million in services.
Currently, EODDS dentists deliver care to an average of 185
patients a month with a constant waiting list of more than
1,500. Every day 25-50 applications for care are received.
From the inception of the program through 2012, more than
10,600 patients have been treated to completion. No region
or state comes close to these actual numbers in donated dental
services for those in need.
EODDS operates using grants from charitable foundations
which include the George Kaiser Family Foundation,
Zarrow Families' Foundations and Chapman Charitable
Trust. EODDS proudly partners with the, Anderson, Flint,
Hille, Bovaird and Bernsen Foundations along with considerably
generous contributions from the Delta Dental Oral
Health Foundation of Oklahoma, INCOG and Tulsa Area
United Way. The funding is strictly used for administrative
fees, staff and laboratory expenses. Past contributors include
the Tulsa Health Department and the Oxley Foundation.
Without the compassionate generosity of these philanthropic
organizations, EODDS would not be the number-one
donated dental service program in the nation.
The future looks even brighter. The continued increase
in participating dentists, the incredible amount of comprehensive
care flourishing and the ever-growing compassion of
everyone involved in the success of EODDS makes a "feelgood"
story feel great. It demonstrates the generous nature of
people in the dental industry. Everyone associated with this
great profession can take pride in knowing that efforts are
being made to make a difference in the lives of those who
desperately need a hand, not just to help them out but, in
many cases, to help them up.