The Greater Cleveland Dental Society is a local resource for public and professional oral health information and service. Since 1886, its mission has been to support dentists so that they can deliver the best dental care to their patients while also serving their communities.

With a three-tiered membership structure, GCDS members are also part of the Ohio Dental Association and the American Dental Association, which provide advocacy, education, practice management resources, fellowship and community service. About 160,000 dentists in the United States are members. Cleveland has a very active membership with about 800 dentists.

Advocacy is integral to the organization on a local, state, and national level. It helps dentists continue to provide patients with the best care in the world. Above all, this tripartite values the integrity of the dentist-patient relationship. The ODA has a strong history of legislative achievement in Ohio. Surveys repeatedly have demonstrated advocacy to be among the most important aspects of organized dentistry.

The GCDS believes that every individual deserves access to oral health care. It supports initiatives to better educate the community and bring new opportunities for care to the underserved population of Northeast Ohio. The ODA awards grants to Ohio for programs that help improve access to dental care. Since 1995, more than $400,000 in grants has been awarded.

Some examples of GCDS providing community service include:

• “The Give Kids a Smile” program provides hundreds of Cleveland schoolchildren with free exams and sealants. More than 225,000 children across the state have received screenings, treatment and/or oral health education since 2003, with dentists donating nearly $12 million in dental services.

• GCDS dentist volunteers have made a three-year commitment to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for “The Safe Smiles” program, where student athletes are provided with custom-fitting mouth guards to protect them during athletic activity. The program, funded by GCDS and other donors, is free to players and schools, with all the dentists donating their time for exams and fabrication of the guards. On Aug. 19, 64 football players from Collinwood, East Tech, John Marshall and Lincoln-West high schools received custom-fit mouth guards.

• A team of GCDS dentists, along with assistants and hygienists, volunteer to work at two to three dental clinics a year as part of Medworks clinics. Medworks is a nonprofit that provides the uninsured and underinsured with medical, dental and vision care. At the last clinic, the GCDS team helped more than 160 patients in significant need of dental care.

Additionally, GCDS supports continuing education programs for its members and those new to the dental profession in order to keep providing the very best dental care. Partnering with the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, the GCDS develops and presents about four courses every year for dentists, staff, ancillary professionals and dental educators. Also in collaboration with CWRU, a mentorship program pairs GCDS dentists with dental students so that long-lasting relationships can develop while the students learn from and observe dentists. The ODA also offers scholarships to the state’s highest caliber of dental students, with more than $500,000 provided since 1995.

As it celebrates its 150th anniversary, the GCDS will continue to promote education and improved access to care for the community, while it advocates for preserving the dental profession’s ability to provide patients with the very best dental care available.

Dr. Roger Hess is a periodontist and co-owner at Lyndhurst-based Periodontal Associates, Inc. He has served as president of the Greater Cleveland Dental Society and chairs numerous committees. Hess also served as president of the Ohio Academy of Periodontists and treasurer of the Ohio Dental Association.

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