Church creates program to provide dental care to those without insurance

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WTVF) – A national CDC survey shows that about one-third of adults have not had a dental check-up in the past year. Lack of insurance is one of the most common reasons for the absence of the dentist. This is a problem that is even more acute in rural areas. A place seeks to propose a solution.

Angela Clardy’s dream has long been to have a picture of her family, with her two daughters, everyone smiling. A picture like that didn’t seem possible at one point.

“I was an alcoholic for most of my life,” Angela said. “I had two daughters that I really needed to be there for. I realized I needed help.”

Her husband Gene moved to Colombia years ago to get away from the troubles of his last city.

“I had to leave,” he said. “I was drugged and homeless.”

Gene joined a rehab center. Living in Colombia, he met Angela.

“It’s like I prayed for it and boom,” smiled Gene. “Her name is Angela. She’s my angel with an a. It’s a prayer.”

Both said there were steps to get here. Angela said years of alcoholism had led to her teeth being neglected while Gene said drug use had deteriorated her teeth. Then they heard about a place.

“Usually we can take care of whatever they need,” said Jim Morrison of Duck River Dental Outreach at Columbia.

St. Luke United Methodist started Duck River Dental Outreach as a way to provide dental care to people with low incomes or without insurance.

“We have a number of dentists who come in and volunteer their time,” Morrison said. “They bring their assistants and they volunteer their time.”

Care is chargeable and decreasing according to household income.

“We think people who are invested enjoy it more and get a little bit more out of it,” Morrison said.

“It makes me realize that there are more people who care about you than people who don’t,” Gene said. “You have to help yourself, though.”

Angela and Gene said recovery is a process with many steps, but today Angela has that happy family image she wants.

“I can smile,” Gene said, showing his teeth. “Very well. God is good. That’s all there is.”

“I’m more open with myself when I go out because I can be,” Angela added.

Duck River Dental tells us they run on donations. You can read more about them here.