Changing Lives, One Smile at a Time, through Oregon Donated Dental Services

By Gary Cummins, Vice President, Affiliate Operations, Dental Lifeline Network

Imagine being diagnosed with cancer and learning that the same infection that causes your painfully, swollen mouth and oversized jaw also will prevent you from receiving chemotherapy that could save your life. Your oncologist will not approve chemotherapy unless you get the dental care you cannot afford. This was the reality for 61-year-old Bryce of Portland. Without dental treatment, chemotherapy would suppress Bryce’s immune system, allowing infection from his severe dental disease to spread lethally throughout his body.

Unemployed due to extensive health issues, Bryce could not afford the nearly $4,000 in dental care he desperately needed. The Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) would cover his medical care, but Medicaid almost never covers dental care for adults. Yet, in Bryce’s case as in many others, it was the first priority to save his life. Through the Donated Dental Services (DDS) program of Dental Lifeline Network –Oregon, DDS volunteer Dr. Eric Dierks generously worked to extract Bryce’s teeth, enabling him to receive dentures.

“The pain of my bad teeth is gone—no more infections or swollen jaw. It’s a lot easier to smile. Life is looking really good. I’ve got teeth, no cancer and now as soon as I get my energy back, I’ll have it made!” Bryce said.

Since 1988 when the Oregon Dental Association partnered with Dental Lifeline Network – Oregon to create the Oregon DDS program, 318 volunteer dentists such as Dr. Dierks and 150 volunteer laboratories have served 2,777 people with disabilities or who are elderly or medically fragile. Those volunteers have contributed over $6 million worth of vitally needed care.

Victoria, of Grants Pass, is a 14-year-old girl diagnosed with Down’s syndrome who loves sports, dance and music. She needed orthodontic treatment to straighten her teeth and brighten her smile.Victoria’s mom stays at home to take care of her and, with only one income,Victoria’s family could not afford the care she needed. DDS volunteer Dr. Lance West provided new braces and the dental care Victoria needed. She loves her smile.

Oregon’s program is part of a national DDS network that has 15,000 volunteer dentists and nearly 3,350 laboratories. These volunteers generously donate their time and services to help patients like Bryce and Victoria, who are in need and have no other way to get help. Volunteering is easy. Dentists see patients in their own offices on their own schedule. As a volunteer, you have the right to see or decline any patient and determine your own treatment plan. A Program Coordinator serves as the liaison between the dental office and the patient and arranges for assistance from specialists and laboratories. There is no extra paperwork for the office staff and you never pay lab costs.


To become a DDS volunteer dentist, please contact Oregon Program Coordinator Dawn Bowman at or (503) 594-0837. For more information, visit our website at

Sponsors and funders of Donated Dental Services Oregon are: Oregon Dental Association, Autzen Foundation, Dental Lifeline Network, Meyer Memorial Trust, PacificSource Charitable Foundation, Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust and Wessinger Foundation.


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