EPISODE 24 -Donated Dental Services for Better Health- February 1, 2023


Dental work not only gives you a great smile but impacts your health as well. Listen as Bart, the host for the Vista Points podcast named Choose Your Path, interviews Lindsay with Donated Dental Services and Darlene with Vista Points as they address dental services provided to people across the state.


Greetings from our Middle Tennessee studio…welcome to today’s Vista Points podcast, “Choose Your Path,” where the Vista Points’ staff are committed to improving the quality of life for people of any age who are living with a physical, mental or intellectual disability.

I’m Bart, your podcast host. My role is to walk with you on this journey of discovering and using special needs trusts. In previous episodes, we introduced special needs trusts, what they are, stories of people and the relationships involved and how special needs trusts impacted their lives. 

This month, we are focusing on self-care. Today’s episode is specifically on dental care, an often-overlooked part of our health, especially by those of us who have other health issues – those issues oftentimes take priority. Did you know over 90% of illnesses begin through the mouth? Man. So, let’s prioritize dental health and the go-to Tennessee resource for anyone with a disability – Donated Dental Services, which is a program of the Lifeline Network.

I’m glad to welcome Lindsay Harold in our studio today, the main Tennessee contact for Donated Dental Services, a program of Lifeline Network.

Bart: Welcome to “Choose Your Path” podcast, Lindsay. 

Lindsay: Hi, it’s a pleasure to be here today.

Bart: You and Donated Dental Services intrigue me. Would you tell me about yourself and a basic explanation about Donated Dental Services? 

Lindsay: Yeah. My name is Lindsay Harold. And, I have been with Donated Dental Services, it’s a program through the Dental Lifeline Network, for about four years. Our Donated Dental Services program provides eligible individuals access to free comprehensive dental care that they might not otherwise get. We do this through a network of wonderful volunteer dentists and dental labs.

Bart: Wow, Lindsay. That’s interesting. Can you tell us more about how this nonprofit differs from the private practice?

Lindsay: Yes, our program enables dentists to provide care from the comfort of their own office. We don’t provide dental services ourself. We just help arrange the patients and the dentists. We match them together. So, we make it easy for them to give back to their community. This includes screening patients, finding volunteers to provide specialty care and finding dental laboratories to donate all of the much-needed care for our patients.

Bart: You know, this organization and its volunteers sound like a valuable resource. I’d like to hear more. What specific types of dental services do its volunteer dentists provide? What are the most common treatments?

Lindsay: It really all depends on the need of the specific patient and what our volunteer dentist can provide. Our goal is get the patient to have a healthy, dental mouth, like, to have healthy, dental hygiene.  So nothing cosmetic. We do a lot of fillings, extractions, root canals, crowns and dentures.

Bart: It’s so valuable that you, and the dentists, provide these services. How do interested people apply to receive services by Donated Dental Services?

Lindsay: They can go directly through our website at dentalifeline.org. Or they can call me and request a paper application to be mailed to them if they don’t have access to a computer.

Bart: Could you give us your phone number, Lindsay?

Lindsay: Yes. It’s 615-983-2601.

Bart: That’s extremely helpful – and convenient! What have you found to be the biggest challenge of patients you serve that prevents them from obtaining dental care?

Lindsay: There are so many reasons, but high cost is the biggest roadblock. A lot of the people that we help also have other health issues that take priority, and dental care is sometimes something that is ignored. Some other challenges include transportation, along with just having a general fear of going to the dentist.

Bart: Wow, this is unfortunate, but, yeah. I understand the fear. I’ll be interested in hearing Darlene address this in our new segment, Ask the Expert. It follows your interview today. Lindsay, when anyone mentions dental health, so many people – of any age – get anxious about going to the dentist. I’ve talked about fear of going to the dentist. How do your dentists ease their anxiety before they begin treatment? Do you have suggestions for parents of these children or for caregivers of parents seeing the dentist?

Lindsay: Through Donated Dental Services, we help patients through the treatment process and we’re kind of a resource for them during the treatment process. We try to include other support systems that may have to, that ensure success in obtaining the dental care. This helps to alleviate some of the fear of the unknown. Our volunteers are also dedicated to caring for these patients and have worked with us many times and explain all the steps throughout the treatment process. So, that kind of eases it.

Bart: Well, that makes sense. And, it’s comforting as a parent – I am a parent – to understand more about how someone treats my child and the reasons behind it. We can now be comfortable knowing what to expect before our loved ones enter the dental office. Next, would you tell us how to be proactive about dental health? What should we do on a regular basis? Or, what should we do for our loved ones living with a disability?

Lindsay: Routine care is key – brushing and flossing every day and making sure you to go to the dentist every 6 months for those important cleanings!

Bart: Of course. It’s good to hear that. Now I’m wondering about the extreme opposite possibilities. What are common symptoms of tooth infections or an abscessed tooth a caregiver should look for when caring for a person who’s living with a disability?

Lindsay: Well, I’m not a dental professional, so I can just speak to my personal experience. In these situations, it is of the utmost importance to keep those dental appointments so they are able to be proactive about possible infections.  

Bart: Well, that’s a help. And, I think we understand every person living with a disability is different. For senior citizens who have had a stroke and can’t talk or take care of themselves, what is the best way to keep their teeth and mouth healthy?

Lindsay: Having a support system and caregivers that understand the importance of oral health is very important. Many don’t understand that it’s all interconnected and can be the root of many diseases.

Bart: Wow. That’s why we have you on here – to correlate this and bring it together. Do you have a story you could share with us to understand that impact dental health can have on a patient?

Lindsay: Yeah, of course. Let me tell you a little about Colton. He was 30 years old when his caregiver applied to the program. They had no idea where to turn. Sadly, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 12, and by the time he was 26, he went into renal failure. He now requires 24-hour care and cannot live alone. He came to us with a ton of broken teeth, and he actually had some that were severely decayed. His dental infections had become so bad that he was hospitalized, and his medical doctor told him he needed to get something done with his dental, because it’s putting his medical health at risk.

So, he got onto our program and saw a general dentist. And, then we had an oral surgeon that extracted all of the decayed teeth and his general dentist did an upper and lower denture. He received over $7,000 dollars of donated treatment, and it changed his life. His mother commented after his treatment that he had a new outlook on life, and he was now able to eat more nutritious food and he was smiling.

Bart: $7,000 dollars’ worth of work, that’s wonderful. Thank you, Lindsay. Clearly Donated Dental Services and its volunteer dentists impact lives and families throughout our state. I’m glad you were here with us today to inform each of us about your services.

Bart: If you didn’t have all your dental questions answered in this episode, you can reach out to Lindsay at Donated Dental Services, a program of Lifeline Network. She’s at 615-983-2601. Or, you can visit her website at dentallifeline.org/Tennessee.

Bart: Now, for our compelling new segment, Ask the Expert. In this segment, we ask Darlene Kemp, a Tennessee expert on special needs trusts, to answer a question or two – and, I expect this is the question that led to Lindsay and Donated Dental Services being here today.

Bart: Hi, Darlene. 

Darlene: Hi, Bart.  Lindsay’s interview was so interesting

Bart: I agree. She brought up a couple of key issues which were sent to Vista Points. And, I’m thinking you’re the person to help with answering these questions!

Darlene: Well, Bart. I will do my best. What’s your first question?

Bart: The listener wrote, “I’m the parent of a minor child who has a special needs trust. Our family is finally figuring out how the special needs trust can benefit our son. Yet, we don’t really know about a dentist yet. We live in a rural part of the state, don’t have extra money yet know he needs to see a dentist. Can his trust help with this?”

Darlene: Well, that’s a great question. And, absolutely, yes. The special needs trust can assist with numerous expenses related to a visit to the dentist.  The first and foremost request we get is related to transportation. The trustee can help the beneficiary – and that’s the person living with the disability – by scheduling transportation through Lyft or through a transportation service. Mileage can be paid to the driver if someone’s using their own car, if the beneficiary has someone drive him or her to the dentist. And, there are times when a specialized dentist is in another county. This is not a problem at all. The trust will reimburse for mileage or pay for transportation.

Bart: Darlene, let me ask you this. Are the costs of treatment a covered expense by the special needs trust?

Darlene: Well, it is customary for the responsible party, of the special needs trust, to talk to the trustee before any extensive dental work is performed. This gives the beneficiary an idea of what will be paid from the trust. The trustee will give the responsible party the information for the dentist to contact the trustee, when needed. And that’s usually while the service is being performed. Most dental expenses are covered by each person’s special needs trust. 

Bart: What an effective resource a special needs trust is! I have to say, the more we talk about special needs trusts, the more it sounds like they can be a vital part of living a better quality of life, for anyone who is living with a disability.

And with that, I thank you and the listeners, for tuning in today’s episode of Choose Your Path, a Vista Points podcast. Did you catch that today’s topic was in response to a listener’s question? If you haven’t asked your question yet, I encourage you to do so. You can ask your question over the phone by calling Vista Points office at 888-422-4076. That number is 888-422-4076. Each of the Vista Points team wants to answer your questions and assist you in whatever way they can. You can also ask your questions through the Facebook page named VistaPointsInc, that’s Vista-Points-I-N-C. There you can send a direct message, otherwise known as a D-M.

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You can also find past episodes and their transcripts on the Vista Points website at vistapoints.org. That’s vistapoints-dot-O-R-G. While we provide you information about each topic, you can also reference each episode for resources and ideas and questions that you can ask for your own research.

Enjoy your day with your loved one. Come back for more or look into past episodes of Choose Your Path. Regardless of where or when you find us, we walk beside you on your path. I look forward to sharing more information with you on how special needs trusts can be of benefit to anyone, any age, who is living with a physical, mental or intellectual disability.