Dental Lifeline Network (DLN) (originally known as the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped) was established in Denver, Colorado, in 1974 by Dr. Larry Coffee. The organization’s goal was to provide oral healthcare to people with developmental disabilities, a population whose oral health had often been neglected.
DLN soon recognized there were other groups of underserved people who needed access to oral healthcare as well. DLN updated its services to provide free, comprehensive dental care through its Donated Dental Services program (DDS) to patients with disabilities and patients who are elderly or medically fragile. DLN services are made possible by more than 14,000 volunteer dentists, who donate their time and resources to help people in need. The process starts when a patient completes an application for oral care services on the DLN website. The application is then sent to a DLN program coordinator, who connects the patient with a volunteer dentist in their area to conduct the services needed.
DLN serves all 50 states and, since its inception, has provided 164,000 people with extensive dental care valued at over $500 million. Locally, DLN serves Portland, Maine, Keene and Whitefield, New Hampshire, and Essex Junction, Richmond, Saint George, Shelburne, South Burlington, and Weathersfield in Vermont. From July through May of 2023, DLN served 118 patients in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine for a total estimated service value of $441,073.
Savannah Gilbreth, grant writer and previous program coordinator, shared that her favorite part of her job is being motivated by stories of patients whose lives were changed from receiving care. Hearing that patients were finally able to eat their favorite foods again because of their oral services always gives her immense joy.
Savannah said the future of DLN is bright and the organization is looking to help more patients and recruit more dentists to volunteer their services. The Covid-19 pandemic caused the DLN dentist network to shrink as some dentists retired from their practices. DLN is actively seeking dental volunteers in all 50 states. Any dentists interested in donating their services can find information at the DLN website.
Savannah pointed out that Mascoma Bank’s financial contributions are crucial to the health of the organization, as the funds go directly to supporting program coordinator roles and keeping the DDS program operating. Mascoma Bank is proud to be a part the extensive effort on the part of the DDS to keep our communities healthy.