Dental Assisting Student Volunteers Provide Free Dentures

Dental Assisting Student Volunteers Provide Free DenturesECPI University Dental Assistant Graduate Noriva Richards and Newport News Campus Dental Assistant Program Director Vicki Brett observe while Donnie Whitehead, Sr. is fitted for his dentures.

Dental Assisting Program Director Leads Effort to Replace Missing Smiles

Dental Assisting Student Volunteers Provide Free Dentures

Donnie Whitehead, Sr. sees a smile he almost forgot

Vicki Brett is a passionate volunteer. By day, she is ECPI University’s Newport News Campus Dental Assistant Program Director. In her spare time, she donates her expertise to a wide range of charitable causes, which includes serving as chairperson for the Virginia Mission of Mercy (MOM) Project. Several times yearly, MOM brings together a group of volunteer dental professionals to provide free care to thousands of people, usually in places like high school gymnasiums.

While Vicki says it’s a very rewarding experience, there is one group of people that she can’t seem to forget. “We can only do so much during these mobile clinics,” she says. “We see some folks whose teeth are so rotten that full-mouth extraction is our only option. Sure, we’re able to ease their pain, but I think about how hard it must be to go through life toothless.”

MOM is funded by the Virginia Dental Association Foundation (VDAF) and at the end of the past fiscal year, the group had a $9,000 surplus. That gave Vicki an idea. She asked the people at VDAF if MOM could use those funds to provide dentures. Her request was approved and so far, she and her group of volunteers have been able to provide a set of teeth to 24 grateful recipients. One of them said she had not been able to eat steak in more than five years.

Among the volunteers Vicki brought together for this project were her own Dental Assistant students. At the onset, they helped by taking impressions that are used to make the molds. Some of those students came back to see the recipients get fitted for the final time. “This has been a pretty neat experience,” says ECPI University Dental Assistant student Ericka Mares. “We’ve kind of gotten to know some of these people and their circumstances. They’re so excited and it makes us excited too!”

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Despite years of volunteering, Vicki says the impact of such moments are as profound for her now as they were the very first time.” These kind of days are the best,” she says. “For many of these people, it’s been a long time since they have been able to smile without feeling embarrassed. That smile on their face makes it all worthwhile!