CDA Cares: The gift of sharing your talents

When Richard Nagy, DDS, walked into his first CDA Cares event in Pomona just over a year ago, he was impressed by the sight of the Fairplex-turned dental clinic and knew something great was going to happen over the next two days.

"It blew me away. The size was unbelievable and there was such a buzz in the room, and it was very exciting to be a part of something so well organized," said Nagy, a Santa Barbara periodontist who volunteered in the routing area at the CDA Foundation event that provided care for nearly 2,000 people.

These days, Nagy looks forward to another CDA Cares planned in Southern California — this time at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on April 16-17. Nagy, who serves as a CDA Trustee for the Santa Barbara-Ventura County Dental Society, urges colleagues to register to volunteer.

"I've been writing about CDA Cares for a year in our newsletter. It's such a great event, and I want everyone to know that they can experience tremendous joy through volunteering," said Nagy. "You can see how you touch someone's life beyond the dental work that you're providing."

George Maranon, DDS, an Encino oral surgeon and member of the San Fernando Valley Dental Society, shares Nagy's sentiments. As a volunteer at seven CDA Cares events, he experiences firsthand how volunteer work makes a difference in the lives of patients and dentists.

"At CDA Cares you have the opportunity to give the gift of one of your talents to someone who really needs it," said Maranon, a CDA Trustee, who serves on the Foundation's CDA Cares advisory committee. "After volunteering, dentists leave feeling like they've received much more than they've given."

Maranon was touched by one man who needed all of his teeth extracted at the CDA Cares Vallejo event, but fear had kept him from getting the help he needed.

"Tears were streaming down his face when I met him. Overcoming his fear, we were able to complete the extraction of his remaining teeth," said Maranon. "At the end of his procedure, he hugged me.  He still had tears in his eyes, but they were different." 

To date, the CDA Foundation has hosted eight CDA Cares events in various cities throughout California. Thanks to the efforts of nearly 13,000 volunteers, dentists and dental team members have provided $13.1 million in care to 16,080 patients. In addition to providing fillings, extractions, cleanings and oral health education, CDA Cares educates the public and policy makers about the importance of oral health and the need for a state Denti-Cal program that works. The events, which shine a spotlight on the good work dentists do in their communities, have resulted in the partial restoration of adult Denti-Cal in 2014, after lawmakers saw the need firsthand at a CDA Cares Sacramento event.

"CDA Cares is raising the consciousness of not only legislators and policymakers, it's also raising the consciousness of Californians in general," said Maranon. "By being the best thing we do, CDA Cares has had a positive impact on the profession."

Like Maranon, Nagy is looking forward to volunteering at the Ventura event, and the feeling of helping others and making a difference.

"Volunteering at CDA Cares energizes your battery to go back to your office on Monday," said Nagy. It's a feeling that you're part of something bigger, and the benefits and joy of volunteering make you happier as a person."  

For more information on CDA Cares and to register for the April 16-17 event at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, visit cdafoundation.org/cdacares.

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When most people hear Ventura County they think of an upper socioeconomic group, but there are still large, underserved populations struggling to receive proper oral health services in that area. Cuts to Medicaid and Denti-Cal have had a negative effect on that population when it comes to health care, particularly oral health care. To help combat this, the CDA Foundation is bringing its CDA Cares dental program to Ventura County on April 16 and 17 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

Ventura County is like most areas in California's coastal valleys - it has a significant agriculture population with many receiving health care through Medicaid and Denti-Cal. Mark Lisagor, DDS, practiced in Camarillo and Oxnard for many years and saw the need firsthand. But due to the low reimbursement rates and bureaucratic challenges of the Denti-Cal program, there aren't enough providers in the area to handle the need and many of those who are in pain end up in the emergency room.