THE ISSUE: Nature Coast Ministries needs dentists.

OUR OPINION: Dental care needs outweigh available resources.

Thanks to the hard work of Nature Coast Ministries, Citrus County is fortunate to have a state of the art dental facility offering free dental care to the poor, underserved and local veterans.

Nature Coast Ministries is a faith-based nonprofit that gets its financial and volunteer support from the community.

Since its inception, Nature Coast Ministries has performed 2,944 dental procedures — including extractions, cleanings and fillings. The value of those procedures total $502,921 — what it would have cost those people if they had paid out of pocket. And that doesn’t include the value of the hours donated by the agency’s volunteers.

Unfortunately, running such an important operation takes resources ... and dentists.

Sue Grable, who recruits dental professionals for Nature Coast Ministries, said “we have too heavy of a load of patients and not enough dental professionals to help them.”

Two issues that impact recruitment are the lack of working

dentists in the area and the difficulty in getting retired dentists credentialed.

Citrus County is underserved in terms of dentists in the area. The demand exceeds the professionals available.

Also, the state requires a credentialing system for retired dentists that is both bureaucratic and stringent. It takes a dedicated volunteer who is willing to jump through those hoops.

It would be a shame if the service Nature Coast Ministries created couldn’t be fulfilled because they didn’t have the professionals to perform that service.

Dental care is a huge need in the area and we ask dental professionals in the area to volunteer their services to keep this much-needed program running.

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