Lynn Cassidy’s easy smile hasn’t always come so easily. Growing up, she rarely cracked a piece of gum, let alone a smile, because of a relatively rare congenital condition called dentinogenesis imperfecta, which rendered her teeth disfigured, brittle and painful.
“The disease runs in my family and caused my teeth to be unusually small, discolored and prone to rapid wear and breakage,” says the 37-year-old Claymont resident and mother of one. “I learned at a young age how not to smile and how to avoid eye contact with people—I even had to alter the way I spoke for fear of people making fun of my teeth.”
Back then, the pricey and extensive dental care Lynn needed to fix her teeth wasn’t readily available because of economic barriers within her family. But in 1990, Lynn’s mom learned about a program at the Wilmington Hospital Health Center that offered affordable dental care—and the hope of a smile one day returning to her young daughter’s face.
For more than 60 years, the Christiana Care Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and Hospital Dentistry has been offering uninsured and underinsured patients like Lynn a wide variety of greatly needed dental services—at greatly reduced costs. As part of Christiana Care’s mission to provide charity care to the surrounding community, the program operates primarily at the Wilmington Hospital Health Center on the second floor, but includes the Kent Community Health Center and other locations in the state.
Under the direction of Edwin L. Granite, D.M.D., the department works closely with community-based dentists and Christiana Care dental residents to provide many of these services on a volunteer basis. In 2007, the dental and oral surgeon residents, supervised by 100 volunteer dentists, provided charity care to more than 2,200 patients (representing 12,300 visits—an average of 34 patients per day). In fact, Christiana Care provided more than $570,000 last year in charity dental care to patients in need.
Patients are seen by appointment, on an emergency basis or as walk-ins and pay on a sliding scale for services that range from routine dental care to complicated reconstructive maxillofacial surgery.
Under the care of Section Chief Howard W. Zucker, D.D.S., and dentists James C. Baker, D.D.S., David Isaacs, D.M.D., and Sohaib Usmani, D.M.D., Lynn has had every one of her teeth extracted over the last 18 years and replaced with implants. Normally, this work would cost tens of thousands of dollars, but she was able to receive the care affordably over an extended period of time.
“I can’t thank Christiana Care, Drs. Baker and Zucker and all the other wonderful staff members of the program enough,” says Lynn. “They really have given me back my smile—and my life. I can eat anything I want, and I feel like a normal person finally. This has truly been a life-altering experience for me, and I’m absolutely thrilled with not just the generosity, but the skill, dedication and professionalism of everyone involved.”
Today, Lynn works in the catering industry, interacting with a great many people every day. She’s self assured, quick with a warm handshake and always makes direct eye contact with people. And, thanks to the dental program, an easy smile now comes very naturally to her—as well as to countless others who have benefitted over the years from the Christiana Care program.
About Christiana Care’s dental program
Christiana Care’s Dental Program works closely with community-based dentists and Christiana Care dental residents to provide many of these services on a volunteer basis. In 2007 alone, more than 100 private-practice dentists, oral surgeons and residents provided charity care to more than 2,200 patients in more than 12,300 visits. Our dentists also reach out to the community, including this group of preschoolers from Wilmington Friends School who visited with Julie Quinn, D.D.S., at Wilmington Hospital Health Center for some early lessons in dental health and hygiene.
For more information, call the Wilmington Hospital Health Center at 302-428-4410.