Weddington Dental to serve patients through nonprofit Tomorrow’s Smiles
by Kara Lopp
Severe mouth pain drove him to the school nurse’s office.
Soon after that tough day, the 14-year-old Quail Hollow Middle School student was in a chair at Weddington Dental being seen by Dr. Christopher Wasulko… for free.
The dentist’s office, at 13721 Providence Road, recently became a partner with the nonprofit Tomorrow’s Smiles to provide free dental care for area low-income students, ages 13 to 19. The program is part of the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation and for about two years has staffed an office off Park Road in south Charlotte.
Though Wasulko and fellow Weddington Dental dentist Dr. Richard Rotchstein have participated in one-day dental clinics for the area’s needy before, they wanted to give back in a bigger, more consistent way.
“It’s such a little part of my schedule, there’s no option whether to do it or not. It’s just a little gesture and a way I can give back,” Wasulko said of the program. “I’m going to do it as long as it takes.”
Since joining the program about two months ago, Weddington Dental has treated two teens. For the Quail Hollow Middle student, it was his first visit to a dentist and his teeth were in bad shape – cavities and infection that required two root canals and the work of a specialist. So Wasulko called on his Matthews colleague Dr. Tom Kleitches, at 518 W. John St., who saw the teen the same day – again, for free.
The student will be back in the chair at Weddington Dental for his regular – and free – cleanings until he’s aged out of the program. It’s important, Wasulko said, to make sure their service isn’t a one-time, quick fix.
“Much of doing the work is educating them (on) how to take care of their teeth so they can pass that on to their kids,” he said. “The whole goal is to not have a need for these nonprofits. I don’t want their children to need (Tomorrow’s Smiles), too.”
Brenda Woodington, program manager of Tomorrow’s Smiles, couldn’t agree more. Most of the program’s patients come to the nonprofit through referrals by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools staff, but the program is open to students in any area school. To qualify, a student’s family must prove they make no more than 2.5 times above the poverty level set by the federal government each year based on how many people are in the family.
“I fight every day to keep this program alive because it’s so important,” she said. “This program is not just about cleanings and fillings. It’s about saving kids’ lives and changing kids’ lives. And it’s all because of a network of dentists who care about kids.”
Want to know more?
Students in Union County, Matthews, Mint Hill, or south Charlotte can apply for free dental care through Tomorrow’s Smiles online at www.tomorrowssmiles.org or call 704-350-1600 for more information.
Dentists or specialists who want to join the Tomorrow’s Smiles network to offer free care can call Brenda at 704-350-1600 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.