In 2007, Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Maryland boy from a low-income family, died due to lack of care for an abscessed tooth.
Bacteria from the infected tooth spread to his brain. A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him, the Washington Post reported, if his mother had been insured.
In September, a Germanna Community College dental hygiene student and instructor saw a similar case while volunteering at a weekend free clinic in Montross.
Misty Mesimer, Germanna’s Dental Assisting & Dental Hygiene Program Director, said: “Diamonte suffered with abscesses for quite some time. If that little girl continued to have the infection, she could have had a similar outcome. If the tooth isn’t treated, the infection will come back.”
Dental hygiene and dental assisting students spent that weekend in September in the Remote Area Medical clinic in Montross, some leaving home at 4:30 a.m. to work with fourth-year dental students from the University of Connecticut, pharmacy students from VCU, pre-med students from William & Mary and nursing students from Rappahannock Community College.
It’s not a stretch to say they may have saved the life of that girl whose family doesn’t have regular access to health care. Germanna dental hygiene student Jordan Green and faculty member Ariyana Canty identified a draining abscess on the 5-year-old girl. “This was an infection that could have been life-threatening if not treated,” Mesimer said. She said Canty advocated for her to receive a course of antibiotics when the dental faculty from UCONN deemed the situation was too much for the setting.
“This is why I’m always preaching about the importance of dental, ” Mesimer said. “Dental care is healthcare. It is not a a benefit for those who can afford it. The systemic links now are undeniable. Some call it a sixth complication of diabetes as well.”
Together with the students from the other colleges, they served over 200 patients, providing $252,000 worth of care.
Mesimer said the students were “amazing and caring. They enjoyed loving on the patients. They worked so hard in hot and non-ergonomic-friendly conditions for hours at a time. They were excellent representatives of Germanna. ”
Green, the Germanna student who helped the girl, said it’s all about, “Making sure that everyone has the same access to dental care.”
“It makes my heart happy to know that we could make a difference,” Green said.
Every year Germanna dental students provide tens of thousands of dollars worth of care at no charge through the Moss Free Clinic and other public health outlets.