An agreement between three partners kicked off a two-day free dental clinic that is being held at the Kingsport Farmers Market.
During a news conference, Lincoln Memorial University announced that it would partner with Appalachian Miles for Smiles and the Health Wagon to provide services in the Tri-Cities region.
“Oral health is our health,” said Dr. Joe Smiddy, board member for The Health Wagon.
Lincoln Memorial will be opening a college of dentistry in Knoxville in September.
The college has received a $3.3 million grant to help bring dentistry to parts of rural Tennessee, so the partnership between LMU and the two nonprofits will help bring dentistry to the most needy in the region.
LMU President Clayton Hess, LMU College of Dental Medicine Dean Denise Terese-Koch and Appalachian Miles for Smiles Founder Frank Waldo signed a memorandum of agreement for the partnership on Monday at the Kingsport Farmers Market.
“You can’t have good health without good dental health,” Terese-Koch said.
Waldo started Appalachian Miles for Smiles in 2016 after seeing a woman who needed dental help but was unable to receive it due to chairs already being full at a Remote Area Medical event.
Waldo prayed about how he could help and the answer came a little later.
He spoke with the United Way of Greater Kingsport about his proposal for a tractor-trailer with medical equipment.
United Way asked him to build it and he undertook the project.
Now, he said, Appalachian Miles for Smiles has given back $4 million in dental and vision help over the past five years.
There are currently 18,000 people in Sullivan County who are either uninsured or underinsured for dental treatment, he said.
With the help of LMU, the nonprofit will now be able to provide that needed assistance.
“That’s what runs Appalachian Miles for Smiles,” Waldo said. “Loving your neighbor as you love yourself.”