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Healthy Smiles Day offers free dental care for the uninsured

“The mouth is the gateway to the body,” said Dr. Youseph Kassar, program director at Monongalia County Health Department (MCHD) Dentistry. “A lot of times people neglect it – if something doesn’t hurt them, they don’t come see me, so things can gradually get worse and worse without you knowing until it is pretty bad.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 4 (26%) adults in the United States have untreated tooth decay and nearly half of all adults ages 30 or older show signs of gum disease.

On Wednesday, MCHD Dentistry offered free dental services for uninsured adults during its annual Healthy Smiles Day event held each year the day before Thanksgiving.

Kassar said the Healthy Smiles Day event is meant “to open up an avenue for patients that don’t have insurance or who don’t think about getting their teeth taken care of because of the lack of insurance. We kind of show them the importance of it and hopefully they keep up with it, not just every year on this day, but regularly as well.”

Healthy Smiles Day provides similar care to uninsured adults that the annual and nationwide Give Kids a Smile! does for children without dental insurance in February. This year a Free Dental Day for Veterans was held Nov. 10 at MCHD Dentistry.

“It’s a day for adults that do not have dental insurance to get free dental care,” Kassar said. “We try to do a cleaning for everyone, an exam if needed and X-rays, and if there is time and they need a filling or two, we can do that.”

MCHD Dentistry created Healthy Smiles Day in 2019, and, in spite of the COVID pandemic, saw 24 patients in 2020, 30 in 2021 and 26 in 2022, according to a recent press release. This year, 32 people scheduled appointments.

“A couple of years ago, we were unsure if the new Medicaid benefit for adult patients would mean fewer patients taking advantage of Healthy Smiles Day, but that was not the case,” Kassar said. “I guess it shows there’s still a need for patients who are being left behind.”

Local resident Wamie Miller was one of the people who took advantage of the Healthy Smiles Day event.

“I’ve been coming for years,” Miller said. “I don’t have insurance, so it helps.”

Leaving her appointment she said, “I loved it. It’s wonderful. They’re really good.”

MCHD Dentistry is a full-fledged dental practice that strives to offer patients the best value for their money, Kassar explained.

“We try to work with any patient that comes in the door, and we accept almost every dental insurance, and we have a sliding scale fee for patients that don’t have insurance,” he said. “We’re as conservative as we can be with dentistry, while also doing what needs to be done.”

According to the press release, MCHD Dentistry is the only full-service dental practice located within a West Virginia health department. It recently received two $50,000 grants that helped build two new, state-of-the-art operatories that opened this summer and provide more room for patients to be seen.

Kassar said prevention is key when it comes to dental health, which is why dentists always recommend regular cleanings and exams so they can catch things before any problems cause larger health concerns.

Information from MCHD said the CDC indicates adults who have a low income, have less than a high school education and are smokers are two times more likely to have untreated cavities than comparison groups. If left untreated, cavities and gum disease lead to tooth loss, which can affect quality of life, including nutrition.

Gum disease also increases the risk of having bacterial infection in the bloodstream, which can damage heart valves. The American Heart Association notes that research has shown a connection between heart disease and periodontal disease, the symptoms of which include gum infection, gum inflammation and tooth damage.

MCHD Dentistry offers a full range of dental services: cleanings, exams, oral health education, oral cancer screenings, digital X-rays, dental sealants, mouth guards, simple extractions, root canals, bridges, same-day crowns, implants, dentures and partials, custom bleaching trays, cosmetic bonding, porcelain veneers and Invisalign tooth straightening.

For up-to-date information on health and wellness in Monongalia County, check out and follow the health department on Facebook and Twitter @WVMCHD and on Instagram at #wvmchd.