More than 30 years ago, concerned community leaders recognized a need to provide caring, quality, primary medical care and dental services without charge to underserved individuals in Greenville, SC. Responding to that need, the Greenville Free Medical Clinic first opened in 1987, and dental services were added in 1994.
“Oral health is directly tied to physical health, and that is not always recognized among patients and the general public,” says Suzie Foley, Executive Director at the Greenville Free Medical Clinic. “Combining dental care into the medical home model is proving to have significant impact on a patient’s overall health. It’s not unusual that the first visit to the clinic for a patient is a dental visit. A toothache will motivate a person to seek care, rather than a medical condition like hypertension that doesn’t hurt.”
Last year, more than 2,200 patients came to the clinic for dental visits and nearly $800,000 worth of oral health services was provided. Dental services performed at the clinic include extractions, treatment of infections, restorative dental services and pediatric dental treatments.
The clinic benefits from a strong partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis and the MUSC School of Dental Medicine through senior student clinical rotations. This is supervised by Dana Parker, DMD, a Bon Secours community dentist.
“We are so grateful for our volunteer dentists,” shares Dr. Parker. “After working all day in their own practices, they then come here to treat our patients. It takes someone with a special heart to have this type of commitment to serve the community. These dentists are a true blessing.”
Approximately 60 volunteer dentists currently rotate or receive referrals in their offices. All patients served by the Greenville Free Medical Clinic are low-income, uninsured, and currently reside in Greenville County.
The clinic is community funded through individual, church and corporate donations, grants, annual fundraising events and contributions from the United Way of Greenville County. Recently, Bon Secours St. Francis donated a mobile x-ray unit and dental chairs, while the Delta Dental SC Foundation granted $15,000 for dental equipment and supplies.