- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Two area dental hygienists started a nonprofit program to provide dental care to those who can’t afford it - and to honor a daughter and friend.

Dr. Angie’s Dental Health Exchange provides dental services to low-income and uninsured adults in St. Joseph County. Every patient earns care by doing volunteer work in the community.

Amy Hazlewood, a dental hygienist, got the idea after hearing about a similar program in Battle Creek, Mich. She and her daughter, Dr. Angie Hazlewood Murat, known to her patients as “Dr. Angie,” decided to start a program in the South Bend area.

But before that happened, Dr. Angie died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011 at the age of 37.

Thanks to Hazlewood and Tamara Davis, another hygienist who worked with Dr. Angie, the program officially began three years later.

So far, Dr. Angie’s program has provided patients with 202 dental services worth $38,000.

Hazlewood attributes some of the program’s success to its name.

“They’re doing it for Angie,” she said of the area dentists and others who donate their time and services. “I can’t help but get that feeling. People help just to honor her memory.”

Hazlewood said her daughter would be thrilled with the program.

To qualify for dental care through Dr. Angie‘s, participants must have no dental insurance, no Medicaid, live on a limited income, reside in St. Joseph County and be at least 18 years of age with photo identification.

Patients who meet the requirements can enroll and receive dental education in order to prevent future problems. Patients receive X-rays and a cleaning from students at Indiana University South Bend or Ivy Tech Community College.

After that, patients volunteer in order to earn additional care. Four hours of volunteering, at any nonprofit in St. Joseph County, are required for each treatment.

Organizers then refer patients to one of about 60 local dentists who have agreed to donate their time and services to the program. Patients go to the dentist’s office for their care.

“They go in and blend in with everyone else,” Hazlewood said. “They don’t feel like a charity case because they earned their care, and they’re not waiting outside a free clinic or standing in lines for hours.”

Marjorie Fordyce is a Mishawaka resident who uses Dr. Angie‘s. She heard about the program at the Indiana University Dental Clinic. She’s exchanged volunteering at Memorial Hospital for fillings and restorations three times since early 2016.

“It means a lot because otherwise I couldn’t have some of the things I’ve had done,” Fordyce said. “Those things are expensive. It’s a good service.”

JoAnn Escamilla was referred to the program by Real Services after she had a filling fall out. She called Dr. Angie’s “a lifesaver.”

“Whenever your filling falls out or you have any problem it can be hundreds and thousands of dollars that you don’t have,” Escamilla said. “But all you have to do with Dr. Angie’s is a couple hours of community service.”

Dr. Sheena Zent, a dentist at Zent Family Dentistry, is on the program’s board with her husband, Dr. Stephen Zent. She said she donates her time to Dr. Angie’s because it’s a convenient way to contribute to the community.

“We like to help out in any way we can, but it’s hard with being at the office and a growing family,” Zent said. “But if I can donate an hour or two every week, I’m already here. It’s not any different than seeing my own patients.”

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Source: South Bend Tribune, https://bit.ly/2sIZhce

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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