In the state of Washington, 147 Washingtonians are on the waitlist to receive desperately-needed comprehensive dental care through Dental Lifeline Network’s Donated Dental Services (DDS) program. The DDS program launched in Washington in 2000 with the help of the Seattle-King County Dental Society to reach vulnerable populations who otherwise don’t have access to dental care. DDS relies on a network of volunteer dentists and dental labs to provide comprehensive dental care to people who are elderly, medically fragile or living with a disability and don’t have the money to pay for desperately needed dental care. Lack of funds and dental coverage to treat these issues leaves many Washingtonians in constant pain, an inability to eat, and sometimes trouble communicating. “Unlike previous generations, people are living longer and keeping their teeth, which means that dental care for an aging population is more complex,” says Dr. Randi Tillman, chief dental officer for Guardian Life Insurance Company. “This population, along with people who have disabilities, are truly underserved given the structure of our current health care system.” Thanks to a $125,000 grant from Guardian Life Insurance Company of America®, DLN will be able to expand its program in the state of Washington and begin treating Washingtonians on the waitlist as well as focus on efforts intended to recruit more volunteer dentists and laboratories in the state. The expanded program will help more people like Kim. At the age of 44, Kim lives with her father and stepmother in King County. With impaired cognition and short-term memory challenges, as well as a series of other medical issues, her dental health was not a priority for her family. Before the help from DDS, Kim’s dental health was significantly deteriorated, and she had several decayed teeth. Surviving on food stamps and a small Social Security Disability benefit, the family struggles to make ends meet. Kim and her family were unable to afford the dental treatment she severely needed. Expensive dental treatment seemed like a luxury beyond their reach. Kim was connected to the DDS program and an oral surgeon, Dr. SasiNarra, extracted several teeth and smoothed her jaw bone. Then, prosthodontist Dr. Michael W. Johnson restored her teeth and with the help of PNW Prosthodontic Labs, Kim is in the process of getting a full upper denture and lower partial denture donated. To date, Kim is on the road to having her dental health and smile restored. With Guardian’s donation, DLN will need more volunteer dentists in the King County area to step in and help provide their dental services to help relieve the backlog. And the incentive for dentists and laboratories to volunteer is there – a recent Guardian survey revealed that 9 out of 10 Washingtonians are more likely to visit a dentist who gives back to the community. To do so, Washington dentists and laboratories interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact DDS at 888.623.2780 or visit WillYouSeeOne.org. “Though the dentists and many labs donate their services, funding is still needed to support these volunteers,” said Fred Leviton, President and CEO of Dental Lifeline Network.“Thanks to Guardian’s contribution we’ll be able to do so and bring services to people in need who have no other way to get treatment.” Learn more or donate at dentallife.org.