Surgeon General Visits East Tennessee Dental Clinic

Dentistry Today


When United States Surgeon General VADM Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, visited the Healing Hands Health Center in Bristol, Tennessee, on January 30, he got a firsthand look at the region’s healthcare safety net thanks to the partnership of two state organizations. 

Along with US Representative Phil Roe, MD, Adams spent more than an hour touring the charitably run health clinic and talking with community leaders about his priorities, one of which is oral health. 

“I was proud to introduce Surgeon General Adams to some of East Tennessee’s most important healthcare providers. Access to quality dental care is critical to one’s overall health, which is why the work of Healing Hands is essential to improving the health of our community,” said Roe. 

“With the support of partners like Delta Dental, Healing Hands will continue expanding dental access to many underserved rural communities,” said Roe.

Healing Hands provides more than 4,000 dental patient visits each year. In 2015, with the support of a grant from Delta Dental of Tennessee’s Smile180 Foundation, Healing Hands doubled its clinic size and added eight new dental exam rooms.

Also, the expansion allowed Healing Hands to form an externship program with the University of Tennessee School of Dentistry, through which four dental students work full-time at the clinic on two-week rotations. 

“It was such an honor to have been chosen as the charitable medical and dental clinic for the US Surgeon General to visit,” said Helen Scott, executive director of Healing Hands.

“We felt as if we were representing all charitable clinics across the state and nation as he toured our facility and discussed issues clinics face and struggles of being low-income and uninsured,” said Scott.

“We are very grateful for the time he spent with us and how personable he was with everyone in our clinic,” said Scott. 

Along with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Adams is preparing to release a new Surgeon General’s report on oral health.

The anticipated report will update 2000’s Oral Health in America: The Surgeon General’s Report, which called attention to the “silent epidemic” of oral health disparities in the United States and highlighted the impact of oral health on general health and well-being. 

“It’s great to see our country’s top doctor make oral health a priority for his office. He’s demonstrating that this interest is more than just talk, as he is getting out into communities and learning about the needs of the patients and those serving them firsthand,” said Missy Acosta, vice president of brand strategy for Delta Dental.

“It was a privilege to discuss the importance of oral health to one’s overall health with Dr. Adams, and we are looking forward to his report later this year,” said Acosta.

During the tour, Adams and Roe joined youth volunteers to pack dental hygiene kits that will be distributed in the community. During his visit to the state, Adams also participated in a roundtable discussion of the opioid crisis at East Tennessee State University and toured Niswonger Children’s Hospital.

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