Reston orthodontist Frederick Dibbs has been practicing here since 1973, a time when “you knew everybody and you helped out” a fellow Restonian in need, he says. Over the years, that has meant some pro bono cases when he had the time and opportunity.
But as those years have seen many more Restonians, and much more need, Dibbs decided it was time to go further. With the urging of his wife Cindy - “her idea,” he said - he tentatively contacted local dentists to see if they might consider community service.
“I got a very enthusiastic response, which surprised me,” Dibbs said. “They [the dentists] embraced it with open arms.”
That's how Reston Smile Partners was born.
Led by Dibbs, Reston Smile Partners is a group of 10 dentists, including general practitioners and specialists, and one dental laboratory. All practice in Reston, and their service is strictly a local and specific effort – to provide needed care to clients of living in transitional housing such as the
“We have 75 families in transitional housing,” said Joan Wise, who coordinates the dental program for Reston Interfaith. “Their case managers refer clients to me. I keep a list and assign them to the dentists. The dentists have been wonderful. It’s not just one visit. They see the clients through to completion.”
Before Reston Smile Partners formed earlier this year, a Reston Interfaith client would have had to find a way to travel either to Bailey’s Crossroads or Loudoun County for programs run by the Northern Virginia Dental Society, said Dibbs.
“They have 300-plus people on their waiting list,” Dibbs said. “And many of our patients simply don’t have cars.”
Abby Kimble, director of communications and outreach for Reston Interfaith, said dental care has allowed some clients to successfully interview for jobs, and in general feel more confident about themselves.
“It’s hard to present yourself if you can’t smile,” Kimble said. “The dental program is opening doors for people.”
Dibbs and his wife say forthrightly that what they need now is help from the community to keep the program going. They are planning a fundraiser on Jan. 10, 2012 at the Old Brogue in Great Falls. Funds are especially need to defray lab costs, Dibbs said.
“We have one lab in our program [Protech Labs], but we can’t just continue to lean on one lab,” Dibbs said. “And if we ask a dentist to contribute his time, and the patient needs lab work, we can’t ask him to pay for that too. The less of a drain we put on our volunteers, the better this will be.”