At the Capital Area Dental Foundation’s Dental Days in November, Amina Makamba, 34, brought a dental estimate of $7,000 from another dentist she had seen. Makamba, who came to the United States almost three years ago from Congo, could not afford to have the work done.
"That was so expensive," says the mother of 2-year-old triplets, one of whom has lasting medical needs.
Makamba needs seven crowns. She will get the work done thanks to volunteer dentists and the foundation.
Makamba is part of the Statesman’s Season for Caring program, which features the stories of 12 families and helps hundreds of others like them through local nonprofit agencies. She was nominated by Foundation Communities.
For the ninth year, the Capital Area Dental Foundation is partnering with Season for Caring to provide free dental care to any members of the featured families who need it. Capital Area Dental Foundation estimates that, with this group of families, it has already donated $4,336 worth of care and will donate an additional $15,000 at least during the course of the treatments. Since 2011, it has donated $150,000 worth of care, including this year.
The Capital Area Dental Foundation holds four Dental Days a year when community members can see local dentists.
In November, Dental Days events offered almost $30,000 in care to 110 people through 68 volunteers at two locations.
"We’re trying to get people where they are," says Adam McKeivier, executive director of the foundation. "We collaborated with social services agencies, refugee groups, cancer resource groups" to spread the word about free care.
Throughout the year, the Capital Area Dental Foundation also partners with local nonprofits including Season for Caring, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, St. Vincent de Paul and Heart Gift. And it works with charitable dentistry groups Healthy Smiles for Texas and Dentists with a Heart.
In its 2018-19 fiscal year, it treated 1,300 people with more than $1 million worth of care.
Dental care is often something people put off, even if they do have access to it, says Dr. Nichole Madison, who was volunteering at Dental Days. "They wait until they are in pain."
When you’re in pain and needing care, but can’t afford it, that’s when groups like Capital Area Dental Foundation come in.
"Giving back is just my love language," Madison says. "It’s my joy in life. It makes you thankful for everything you do have and what you can provide for people. If you’re not using it, what’s the point?"
Madison was treating Season for Caring’s Howard Spain, 64. He wanted to get his own teeth and a dental appliance back in shape. When asked which teeth are bad, he says, "Pretty much all of them."
Madison thought a dentist could save some of the teeth and improve hygiene to keep Spain’s mouth free of infection.
Once Season for Caring patients are assessed by a dentist and their needs documented, the foundation will match them with a volunteer dentist to come up with a treatment plan and do the work.
Spain’s mother, Velma Pace, 83, thought she was coming to Dental Days to get her son examined, but with a little encouragement, she was seen, too.
Dr. Kent Macaulay found many things that a dentist could help Pace with, some of which might improve problems she’s been having with her stomach.
"I’m glad you asked," he says.
"I don’t know whether to cry or laugh," Pace says. "I’m so thankful, I really am. How thankful I am."
Macaulay made a note to schedule her treatments with a dentist around caring for both Spain and Pace’s husband, Johnny, who has dementia.
Minatt Karim, 26, has a broken tooth. She says through a translator that it’s something she’s had for a long time. The plan is to restore that tooth so no one can tell it was broken. Karim, who is a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar, had never been to a dentist before.
Her three children, who have dental care through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, have already seen a dentist, and now it was time for Karim and her husband, Mohammad.
The same was true with Season for Caring recipient Kizzy Jackson, 38, who was able to get two teeth pulled and get a treatment plan for the rest of her mouth. The last time she had seen a dentist was 10 years ago, but now she says the pain "comes and goes."
"I needed the work done," she says. "It was time for it. Quite a little bit of work needs to be done."
For the dentists who volunteered at Dental Days and the ones who will do the follow-up work, volunteering is a gift.
"It gives me pleasure," says Dr. Paul Stubbs. "All of us in dentistry, I think, we’re altruistic. It fills the need to help another person. That’s why a lot of us got into dentistry."