The patients began showing up the day before, camping out in order to ensure that they’d receive their free dental care, as promised.
Whatever their dental fears, they set them aside for this one day, so that they could get free fillings, extractions, cleanings, and other treatments. The nature of the 12th Annual Dentistry From The Heart event, held on January 25th in Chickasha, Oklahoma, was such that no sedation was possible, not even nitrous oxide.
The team at 29th Street Dental Care, led by John C. Phillips III, DDS, included nine doctors and 80 volunteers, who worked from 6:30 am to past 5:00 pm, to serve the more than 200 adults who queued for treatment.
Dr. Phillips’s wife, Angi, who doubles as the practice administrator, began actively orchestrating the 2019 pro-bono day six months earlier.
Dr. Phillips is a founding member of DOCS Education who shares our community’s steadfast dedication to pro-bono work. Indeed, in the two decades since DOCS Education began teaching dentists how to safely and effectively treat anxious patients using oral sedatives, our members collectively have donated their time and services to tens of thousands of grateful patients who otherwise could not afford oral health care.
Dr. Phillips and Angi were among the early adopters of the Dentistry From The Heart (DFTH) concept, created to give back to individuals who can’t afford dental care. DFTH, founded by Dr. Vincent J. Monticciolo, has grown into a worldwide nonprofit organization that enjoys the support of thousands of dentists, hygienists, and volunteers annually.
This year alone, 29th Street Dental Care, which has 14 operatories, provided an estimated $230,000 worth of treatments during its event. Impressively, individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations donated all the supplies and services necessary to make the day a success, from the composite resins required for fillings to the porta-potties placed for the convenience of those waiting in line outside.
As one of the founding members of DOCS Education, Dr. Phillips, who also has served on our faculty, epitomizes our community’s core values; including a lifelong commitment to public service, continuing education, innovation, and a belief that oral health is critical to overall well-being and quality of life.
Angi Phillips told Incisor that the day that she, her husband, and their team of volunteers dedicate to DFTH is the most physically draining of the year.
“We’re exhausted at the end of the day,” she says, adding quickly that it is also the most satisfying day of the year.
In truth, the comity that each DFTH event generates among the team at 29th Street Dental Care is exceptional, as is the goodwill that the annual pro-bono day generates for Dr. Phillips’s practice in the greater Chickasha community.
On a day-in and day-out basis, Dr. Phillips is assisted in caring for patients by Reed Perryman, DDS, a 2012 graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry.
For this year’s DFTH day in Chickasha, Drs. Phillips and Perryman were joined by Dr. Perry Brooks, an oral surgeon, Dr. Bob Womack, Dr. Jennifer Rapini, Dr. Coty Shores, and Dr. Brett Warn. Also providing their services were Dr. Greg Hiebert, who made the trip from Lowell, Arkansas, and Dr. Jean Lee, who previously lived in Oklahoma and helped out at 29th Street Dental Care. She flew in from Colorado.
Many of the year-round patients of 29th Street Dental Care – those who can afford to pay for their treatments – are among the biggest supporters of Dr. Phillips and his annual DFTH day. These patients feel good knowing that their doctor and their dental practice are serving the less-fortunate. To help out, they bring sodas, snacks, paper towels, trash bags, even toilet paper ahead of the event, as well as make cash contributions.
Midwest Dental Equipment & Supply, based in Wichita Falls, Texas, donated all of the supplies.
Each year, Angi recounts, the DFTH day in Chickasha gives rise to the type of memories that last a lifetime – mostly of patients crying tears of joy for having received the gift of improved oral health.
This year was no different.
Among the patients seen on January 25th was one woman, with a broken front tooth, who was getting married in a month and too embarrassed to be photographed with the cosmetic flaw. After the DFTH dentist treated the tooth with a composite veneer, her smile was restored.
Another 2019 DFTH patient had only 22 teeth remaining in his mouth, and they all needed to come out. Ordinarily, such an extensive number of extractions would be pricey – likely in the range of $6,500. The DFTH team completed the work for free.
On the way out of Dr. Phillips’s office, many of the DFTH patients paused to sign their names and include a brief message on a nearby poster board.
“This meant the world to us,” wrote one patient.
“Thank you to all these wonderful and kind hearted people,” wrote another.
“You are a God sent [sic] for us that need the help,” said a third.
Preliminary planning for the 2020 DFTH day, hosted by 29th Street Dental Care, will begin soon, Angi says. No wonder.