PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE: Dental help at Good Samaritan Center

Greg Lang

Greg Lang

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone is no more than six introductions removed from any other person in the world, that a chain of "a friend of a friend" introductions can connect any two people in only six steps. There’s a party game based on the theory — any actor in Hollywood can be linked through his or her film roles to Kevin Bacon within six steps.

Well, there’s a new game in town; it’s called Fourteen Degrees of Separation from a Dentist. I jest (somewhat), but this much is true: no less than 14 people were involved recently in an effort to get emergency dental care for one uninsured woman suffering with a bad tooth.

I received a phone call from a friend asking if our health clinic, the Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett, now offers the dental care I’ve been talking about for nearly a year. She was the third person in the sequence; I became the fourth.

“We do not,” I explained, “we are still trying to raise the money.”

But dental clinic or not, this woman was in pain with an infection and at least we could help her with that. She made her way to us and was seen by one of our staff. By that time she had been “introduced” to four more people along the way toward pain relief. As we were treating her, a student in our office, let’s call her No. 9, learned about the case and called her father, No. 10, a dentist, but one who could not take care of this particular problem. He got on the phone and two hours after No. 3 called me, boom, the woman met No. 14, an oral surgeon who had agreed to extract the bad tooth.

A few days later, I received this email from the woman’s husband: “You don’t know the feeling of watching your wife day after day, hardly able to stand the pain and not being able to do anything about it. She is my caregiver, unable to work because of me. I am a stage 4 cancer patient. Financially, we have hit rock bottom. I feel guilty for that and her not having insurance because of me. I can't thank you all enough for making it possible for my wife to get the help she desperately needed.”

This story had a happy ending, but so many others like it will not. Gwinnett County does not have a full-time charity dental clinic to serve people without dental insurance. When people approach us seeking dental care, we refer them to clinics in Fulton and Cobb, clinics that have long waiting lists. This should not be the case; Gwinnett County should have a resource for offering charity dental care to its residents. The Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett wants to be that resource, but we need funding to build and operate a charitable dental clinic. How many degrees of separation are between you and the help you need, whatever that help may be? How can you help us reduce those degrees to just two — one person in need making one phone call to us?

Visit www.goodsamgwinnett.org to learn more about our plans to bring charity dental care to Gwinnett County, and how you can help make it happen. Click the big blue number 3.

Greg Lang is Executive Director of Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett.

People Helping People is a publication of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health & Human Services.

For more information contact Ellen Gerstein - ellen@gwinnettcoalition.org or at 770-995-3339.