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Phillip McCallum was down to his last few teeth when he first visited one of the free dental clinics offered at Roane State Community College’s Oak Ridge campus.
Through the clinics, he was able to have teeth pulled, get dentures for his upper teeth, and undergo repairs on his bottom teeth.
Now, he’s in less pain.
He is also able to eat healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables because chewing is easier.
“If I had not been able to get that done when I did, I might have been a lost cause,” said McCallum, who came to his first clinic in fall 2008.
The clinics for low-income, uninsured and underinsured adults were originally funded in 2008 by $80,000 in grants from the Tennessee Department of Health.
The grant funding paid for set-up costs such as purchasing dental equipment and instruments.
Although most grant funding has expired, the clinics have continued thanks to ongoing assistance from the Roane County Health Council through a small grant from the Roane County United Way; the volunteer efforts of dental health professionals; and support from Roane State and the community.
McCallum is a student at Roane State who plans to transfer to the University of Tennessee and pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work.
He said students, staff and teachers noticed a change in him after he received assistance through the dental clinics.
“People around here will tell you that I smile more than I used to,” he said. “I’m more outgoing than I used to be.”
McCallum encourages the community to support the clinics through donations and volunteering.
Dentists, registered dental hygienists, registered dental assistants and dental hygiene students consistently donate their time to the clinics.
“Doing this not only helps those in need, but it also gives volunteers a feeling of self-worth,” McCallum said. “It will give them a great feeling.”
Dental professionals interested in volunteering should contact Mike Curran, director of Roane State’s dental hygiene technology program, at 865-803-9464.
The appointment-only clinics are held one Saturday a month and serve about 30 patients.
The waiting list for new patients is long.
People interested in services can have their names added to the waiting list. To do so, call 865-481-2016 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays.