Domestic Violence Victims Receive Free Dental Services

Nova Southeastern University in Florida is offering free dental services to victims of domestic violence who otherwise may not have access to such services.

Battered women can have significant dental needs that often go untreated. In some cases, a battered woman’s dental problems are the direct result of abuse, and her abuser has kept her from receiving dental care for years, or even decades.

Using a 3-year, $850,000-grant from the US Health Resources and Services Administration, NSU’s College of Dental Medicine is ready to help by providing examinations, preventive services, restorations, and some dentures to victims of domestic violence.

The free oral services are being provided on-site at several nonprofits that help victims get back on their feet: The Lodge in Miami, and Women in Distress and the Broward Addiction Recovery Center in Ft. Lauderdale. The dental services are also offered to the children of victims. So far, more than 107 women and their children have used the services provided by NSU dental residents and students. The grant is expected to provide dental treatment to nearly 200 women before it expires in June 2011.

“This grant enables NSU to provide a critical service that is needed by a vulnerable segment of society,” said project director Stephen Abel, DDS, MSD, who is NSU’s College of Dental Medicine’s assistant dean of extramural programs. “Among the many challenges faced by victims of domestic violence is finding quality dental care delivered by compassionate, nonjudgmental providers. We at Nova Southeastern University want to do our part to help.”

NSU’s College of Dental Medicine, which runs Florida’s largest dental clinic in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, is helping meet the women’s dental needs by using portable dental equipment to treat them directly at the shelters. This mobile equipment allows NSU dentists to provide comprehensive check-ups that fully evaluate each woman’s needs. Dental residents and students are trained to handle the sensitivity of the woman’s needs to ensure they feel safe and comfortable throughout the course of treatment.

“This grant program has been an incredible resource,” said Mary Riedel, president and CEO of Women in Distress. “The dental services have been beneficial on many levels. It provides our clients with an invaluable service; trains NSU dental students to care for domestic violence victims; provides our staff with another resource; and raises awareness of domestic violence.”

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