Bringing Lifesaving Dental Care to More Arlingtonians in Need

Nancy White, Executive DirectorTwo years ago, Arlington Free Clinic responded to the needs of our patients by opening a new dental clinic. We started small with the help of several generous donors and the gift of space in Arlington County’s Department of Human Services (DHS) building. However, the number of patients needing care and the unexpected severity of their dental problems surprised us. Many of our patients had not seen a dentist in many years—if ever.

This year, AFC volunteer and longtime supporter Mary Mellon came to us with the desire to make a significant gift in memory of her father who died sixty years ago from an untreated tooth infection. With her gift, Mary is committed to helping others get the dental care they need—and that her father couldn’t afford. I hope you will read her story here. Inspired by Mary’s gift, we are exploring a fundraising campaign to enable us to move our dental program onsite, expand and streamline our services, and triple the number of patients who are able to receive care.

Proper dental care can be a matter of life and death as Mary unfortunately learned. Diseases such as diabetes, common among AFC patients, reduce the body’s resistance to infection and put teeth and gums at great risk. Periodontal disease is linked to premature birth and low birth weight in infants. Patients undergoing treatment for cancer are often at great risk of infections of the teeth and gums. Other health conditions like heart disease can be worsened if dental problems aren’t addressed, and untreated infections can spread and lead to serious illness or even death.

Bringing our dental clinic onsite will do much more than simply increase the number of patients served. The dental clinic’s proximity to our medical operations will ensure that oral health problems, whether the cause or the consequence of other medical conditions, are treated. Additionally, this co-location will support collaboration and increase communication among physicians, dentists, and other health professionals—a hallmark of our patient-centered medical home.

Thanks to your support, Arlington Free Clinic is a leader in adopting new and innovative models of healthcare. Our team-based care model works! Bringing our dental program into this environment will keep AFC at the forefront of healthcare innovation and, most importantly, will advance our mission of improving health through truly integrated, whole-patient care.

I can’t wait to see all of the healthy smiles from this expansion of our dental program. I’ll look forward to updating you on our progress in the coming months.

– Nancy White
Executive Director

Read our complete 2017 Annual Report.