Volunteer dentist prepares for CDA Cares clinic Sept. 27-28

Q&A with San Bernardino committee chair Gerald Middleton, DDS

“Creating a smile that not only looks good, but also works well.” That’s a goal Gerald Middleton, DDS, strives for at his private practice in Riverside County and as lead of the upcoming CDA Cares clinic in San Bernardino this fall. It’s the first time the CDA Foundation is hosting the clinic in San Bernardino and will be Dr. Middleton’s first time serving as chair of a CDA Cares Local Arrangements Committee. As chair, Middleton oversees the recruitment of dental professionals and community volunteers, raises funds and identifies and secures pharmaceuticals and local dental lab equipment. This work begins 12 to 14 months before every event.

As former president of the Tri-County Dental Society and leader of several of its committees including the Council on Legislation to Community Heath, Middleton’s love of dentistry shows in his desire to advocate for those in need and to continuously educate himself and patients about oral health care. No stranger to philanthropic work, Middleton is also a recognized provider for Project K.I.N.D. (Kids in Need of Doctors) — a program that provides free health care to minors with acute illnesses who do not qualify for Medi-Cal or have dental insurance.

A longtime member of CDA and an active volunteer at several past CDA Cares, Middleton is familiar with the amount of work and dedication required to ensure each event is a success. CDA spoke with him about how his past experiences and advice from previous chairs and clinical leads have helped him prepare for the San Bernardino event, which takes place Sept. 27-28 at the National Orange Show Events Center.

What have you gained from volunteering at past CDA clinics, particularly as it might help you approach and organize the upcoming San Bernardino clinic?

I am always impressed at how an event as large and complicated as CDA Cares can run with such efficiency. Volunteering in several different areas at multiple CDA Cares events has allowed me to gain a better understanding of how the event runs as a whole. At the previous CDA Cares in Solano County, I was able to interact with several of the leads to discuss and share ideas on how to continue to improve the event and bring some of these ideas back to San Bernardino.

Can you speak about the particular need for this event in San Bernardino and the surrounding area?

The need for CDA Cares in San Bernardino is huge. 18.2% of the population is currently living below the poverty level — drastically higher than both the state and national average. Low-income children in San Bernardino are utilizing dental services much less frequently than the California average. Three in 10 kindergartners assessed suffer from untreated tooth decay while 44% of adults in our region have lost a permanent tooth to decay or periodontal disease.

Countless statistics demonstrate that San Bernardino County is falling way behind the state average when it comes to oral health. Although Medi-Cal reimbursement has increased slightly, it still is not enough to attract new providers. Only 9.7% of dentists practicing in San Bernardino County treat patients insured through Medi-Cal. Although I do not expect this event to meet the unfulfilled needs of this area, it can help alleviate some of the residents’ pain and discomfort while highlighting the severity of this problem so that real solutions can be put into place.

What is your fondest memory of a past CDA Cares event or of the experience in general?

I have had so many great experiences that it is hard to come up with only one. I have seen multiple times how much joy can come from redeeming someone’s self-esteem by restoring a decayed front tooth. I remember that in the first clinic I volunteered I was asked to assist with numbing patients and I wasn’t too excited to work in that area — who wants to get a shot? The first patient I saw had been in pain for months with a badly decayed molar that had a large abscess. He thanked me repeatedly for a simple shot of lidocaine that eliminated his pain so that he could have the tooth removed.

What is something you would like to share with a dentist or dental professional who is thinking about volunteering?

I get a bit emotional every time I arrive at CDA Cares early in the morning and see lines of people in the dark who have waited through the night, in the cold, to get relief for themselves or their children. I could not imagine having to do that for my family or myself. It makes me realize how truly blessed I am and it is an honor to utilize the gifts I have by helping others. The most difficult part of this event has to be telling the people waiting in line that we cannot take any more patients. The more volunteers we have, the fewer people we have to turn away. You will receive much more from giving than you can imagine.

Register to volunteer at CDA Cares San Bernardino.

About Gerald Middleton, DDS

Dr. Middleton received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, Long Beach in 1987 before heading to Wisconsin to earn his doctor of dental surgery from Marquette University School of Dentistry in 1991. His desire to stay close to family brought him back to the Golden State where he completed a one-year general practice residency at Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey, Calif. Outside of dentistry, Middleton enjoys biking along the coast, skiing, hiking and exploring national parks.

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The CDA Foundation’s volunteer-run dental program, CDA Cares, is coming to San Bernardino, Calif., Sept. 27-28, and online registration for the clinic is now open. Around 1,950 people who experience barriers to dental care receive no-cost services and oral health education at each CDA Cares. The September clinic will take place at the National Orange Show Events Center.

The CDA Foundation’s volunteer dental clinic, CDA Cares, provided nearly $1.3 million in charitable dental services to 1,491 people at the Solano County Fairgrounds March 8-9. During the two-day event, dentists and dental professionals performed 8,955 procedures, including fillings, extractions and cleanings. Additionally, the clinic provided patients with oral health education.