Clifton's Story at BMDC
Experiencing dental pain can feel all-encompassing, impacting every second of your day and leaving little room to focus on anything else. For Clifton Dukes, excruciating pain from two cracked molars had become his reality – but he didn’t have the means to get help.
Like many patients who come through the doors of Ben Massell Dental Clinic, Clifton had fallen on hard times. He’d dedicated over 30 years to his work as a house painter, but as he began to get older, he searched for less labor-intensive work. He found steady work as a courier but was still living paycheck-to-paycheck. With little disposable income, his health maintenance quickly fell by the wayside – he had no health or dental insurance and couldn’t afford cleanings or check-ups. Life got more complicated when his mother fell and broke her hip at age 95. Clifton moved in with her, giving every dollar he made to help her pay bills. “I didn’t want Mama to have to go to a [nursing] home… she might not be here still if she had to go somewhere,” said Clifton.
Clifton then lost his job when the courier company was sold, becoming dependent on his social security payments plus whatever odd jobs he could find. When his income was unsustainably low, he began having severe problems with his dental health: two of his molars cracked, one on each side of his mouth. Unable to eat without pain, he consulted a family dental practice who said he needed both teeth extracted - an expensive procedure he couldn’t afford. The pain was so unbearable, he said “If I had a pair of pliers, I was about to do it myself.”
Luckily, Clifton was referred to the Ben Massell Dental Clinic. He was quickly accepted as a patient by proving he fell within the client criteria: he was within 125% of the poverty line, had no dental insurance, and resided in Metro Atlanta. While wait times for surgical procedures done by specialists can be up to nine months, Clifton was able to get an appointment within two months. Our volunteer dentists safely extracted both his molars, immediately relieving his pain. “They just looked after me,” said Clifton. “I owe y’all a bunch.”
Over the course of his six visits to the clinic, Clifton had his two extractions and multiple cavities filled by volunteer dentists, as well as deep cleanings from our hygienist. Not only did the clinic care for his teeth, but he received oral health education including proper brushing and flossing techniques. Knowing how to prevent future problems and keep his teeth healthy was empowering; he didn’t know the extent to which poor dental care could affect his overall wellbeing. Clifton takes pride in his smile and oral health, and now he flosses every day.
Most recently, Clifton was able to receive a vision checkup and free pair of glasses at Ben Massell, thanks to our partnership with Georgia Lions Lighthouse. Through tele-optometry technology, Lighthouse provides vision services to Ben Massell patients once a month at the clinic, with the first pair of glasses provided completely free from the clinic. Clinton was deeply grateful to receive them.
“Thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” said Clifton. “I don’t know how I would have paid to make the pain go away. I appreciate everything y’all do for me.”