The nonprofit clinic serves low-income, uninsured working families and the elderly with affordable, comprehensive dental care on a sliding fee to local residents. Together with the Nashville clinic, Interfaith Dental Clinic of Rutherford County will serve an estimated 2,100 patients each year and provide a market value of more than $2.5 million in care.
In celebration of such a momentous occasion, the group will host an official ribbon-cutting ceremony, co-hosted by the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, at 4 p.m. Thursday at 210 Robert Rose Drive, near Stones River Mall. Tours of the new facility will also be available.
When executive director Dr. Rhonda Switzer realized 10 percent of the clinic’s patients were driving from Rutherford County to Nashville for Interfaith Dental services, she said she knew it was time for a second location.
“The idea of a local clinic was embraced by the dental community in Rutherford (County), and we’ve received tremendous support from the business community and the faith community,” she said.
The clinic purchased and renovated a 5,500-square-foot building at 210 Robert Rose Drive, and construction ended in January. Local companies and organizations contributed to the organization’s $1.3 million campaign goal, with the lead gift of $710,000 coming from the Christy-Houston Foundation. To date, approximately $1.08 million has been raised, including $150,000 from a campaign dinner last fall.
Under the leadership of Murfreesboro dentist Roy Thompson, the first patients were seen in February, as part of the state-of-the-art clinic’s soft opening. Since then, clinic staff has completed 324 patient appointments and cares for more than 60 patients each week.
Additionally, 53 dental professionals -- 21 general dentists, nine specialists, 15 dental hygienists and eight assistants and front desk coordinators -- have already committed themselves as volunteers of Interfaith Dental.
“When we’re treating these patients, we are not only trying to get their teeth health, but we’re trying to give them tools for their entire family so they can break the cycle of tooth decay,” Thompson said. “Good dental health ahs good implications for overall health.”
He pointed out that more and more research articles are being written about the connection between periodontal health and overall wellness.
Research has identified gum disease as a risk factor for heart and lung disease, diabetes, premature, low birth weight babies and a number of other conditions, according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.
Beyond that, Thompson says a healthy smile boosts self-esteem.
“This is really a life changing experience, it’s a transformational change in patients,” he said. “And they can teach their children and teach their spouses. We try to leverage the investment in their mouths to make an entire family transformation. That’s what changes people.”
In addition to Thompson, who serves as Rutherford County Advisory Committee Chair, board member and volunteer provider, other local dentists have eagerly taken part in Interfaith Dental, including: Dr. Rhonda Switzer, executive director, and Dr. Katie Egan, clinic director.
Additionally, the advisory board is comprised of community leaders: Timm Glover of MTMC, Gloria Bonner of MTSU, Thomas Boyle of HCA (who also oversaw renovations), Dr. Alex Hollis, a local oral surgeon, and Pallie Jones of Charity Circle.
After volunteering his dental services in third-world countries, Nashville’s Dr. Tom Underwood committed himself to helping hard working people right here in Middle Tennessee who were in just as desperate need of dental care, but couldn’t afford it. According to the group’s website, “With the help of the Nashville Dental Society and the Out reach Commission of West End United Methodist Church, Underwood initiated the Interfaith Dental Clinic in November 1994 to provide care for working poor families and the elderly who fall between the cracks of private practice and public health care.”
For more information about Interfaith Dental, visit interfaithdentalclinic.com, and to RSVP for Thursday’s event, contact Maryanne Stumb at 615-329-4790. To reach Interfaith Dental Clinic of Rutherford County, call 615-225-4141.