Even as snow hit Nashville late Friday night, people were already lining up outside Meharry Medical College for a student-organized event set to start Saturday morning. Meharry's chapter of American Student Dentist Association (ASDA) provided free oral surgeries, cleanings, and fillings for those without dental insurance.
Students worked overtime on Saturday to provide service to hundreds of people. Next to where teeth were being cleaned, Charles Corbit, who is 54 and homeless, stood in line. Corbit arrived as soon as doors opened and was stunned by the turnout. He says he arrived at Meharry at 8:06 a.m. and stood in three lines to get his teeth cleaned.
Meharry produces 40 percent of African American dentists. And 83 percent of those dentists practice in underserved communities after graduation, which the college encourages.
Despite strong correlations between oral sickness and systemic illness, dental insurance for adults is not covered by most TennCare plans. President of the local ASDA chapter, La’Chanda Akers, says that the refusal to see dentistry as a vital part of healthcare is very problematic and dentists must remind everyone that "dentistry is a major part" of healthcare.
Meharry students say they hope to expand the event for next year so more people can be included.