The Smile was Free, But the Hug was Priceless

By Dr. Paul Palo

As I stood with a badly aching back and feet that felt as if they had been beaten from continuously standing for 12 hours two days straight on a concrete floor, a woman appeared and briskly walked toward me. Her look was determined and a little concerned.

First, let me explain my location: I was at the Lee County Civic Center Arena. This is where I’ve just spent three days volunteering for the Florida Dental Association Foundation’s (FDA Foundation) fourth annual Florida Mission of Mercy (FLA-MOM) dental clinic. Last weekend, me and my fellow dentists, hygienists, assistants, laboratory technicians and lay volunteers provided nearly 2,000 patients with more than $1.7 million worth of dentistry at no charge to them. Hard work? You bet it is. But worth every ache and blister.

So, back to the distressed woman who approached me. I was the lead volunteer in charge of overseeing dental triage, so I was frequently singled out by many people with questions and concerns. This young woman certainly looked concerned. She introduced herself as an advocate for a group of people staying in a drug addiction treatment facility in Naples. Dr. Leo Cullinan had arranged to bus them over to our event to take advantage of the treatment we were providing. She explained that one of her charges, a 24-year-old young woman, had come in the day before with many painful, bad teeth. It was determined that her remaining teeth were so badly decayed, none could be saved. She was taken to oral surgery where a skilled surgeon removed her remaining teeth. The caregiver’s reason for concern was because she could sense the despair in this young woman’s eyes at now not having any teeth to present herself with for future employment. I calmly explained that our clinic had no provisions to make immediate dentures, but she was not deterred. So, at this point, I brought in Dr. Cullinan to see if there were any available resources in Naples to help this young woman out. And that’s where I left her — in Dr. Cullinan’s capable hands. I moved on to other problems that needed to be solved and completely forgot about the situation.

Fast-forward 24 hours to Saturday afternoon, when I was helping break down the clinical equipment and box it up to transport out when again, who do I see but the advocate bounding straight for me — this time with a huge smile on her face.  She thanked me profusely for helping the young woman the day before, and told me that due to Dr. Cullinan’s persistence, she was fitted for a same-day denture courtesy of Dr. Reza Iranmanesh, our wonderful lead prosthodontist. “This will change her life!” she proudly exclaimed as my eyes began to mist over. She then embraced me in a wonderful heartfelt hug of thanks —  more payment than I ever expected, but so gladly accepted.

If you’re looking to help change the lives of so many in need as well as receive much more payment than you would ever get in a typical week at the office, I urge you to join us in Orlando in March 2019 for the FDA Foundation’s next FLA-MOM. It will change your life, too.


Dr. Palo is a member of the FDA Board of Trustees and an alternate to the American Dental Association 17th District Delegation. He is a general dentist in Winter Haven, Fla. and can be reached at


Post-Irma Disaster Recovery Resources

Last week, the Florida Dental Association Foundation teamed up with the American Dental Association Foundation to prepare and assist FDA member dentists in need. Below is information we provided members last week, but want to share with you again, as we know that those who might be in need may forget these resources. If you know of fellow members who need assistance, please share this information.

The ADA Foundation offers support that may be helpful to dentists affected by the storm. This includes:

  • ADA Foundation emergency grants
    • Emergency Disaster Grants — Any dentist who is a victim of a disaster may apply to the ADA Foundation for a grant up to $2,000 to help cover the costs of their personal emergency needs, such as food, clothing and shelter. (ADA membership is not required.)
    • Emergency Disaster Grants for 501(c)(3) organizations providing dental care following a disaster — Grants of up to $10,000 are available for this purpose.

More information can be found at ADA and ADAF Disaster Support.

Please click here to access the ADA/FDA relief application. ADA Foundation grants are up to $2,000 and FDA Foundation grants are up to $1,500. This information also can be found on the FDA website at

Additional information/resources from Volunteer Florida Emergency Management can be found here.

Please know the FDA, its officers and trustees are here for you, and haven’t stopped working to make sure members’ needs are first.


The 2016 FLA-MOM is HERE!

By the FDA Foundation

The 2016 Florida Mission of Mercy (FLA-MOM) in Jacksonville is TOMORROW!

We have received such a wonderful response from our clinical and general volunteers — we are extremely grateful for their generous spirit to donate their time and skills to care for the citizens in the Jacksonville area. The FLA-MOM committee has gone to great lengths to make this a fantastic event for our volunteers, but most importantly, for our guests themselves — the patients we will be treating!

Over the course of the next two days, our amazing group of volunteers is supporting an effort that will make a life-changing impact for 3,000 community members. Clinical volunteers have a unique role in providing professional care and treatment for people who, for many reasons, lack access to care. The core clinical philosophy of the FLA-MOM is to improve the overall health of individuals by relieving pain and infection, restoring dignity and creating smiles.

On behalf of the FDA Foundation, its Board of Directors and the FLA-MOM planning committee, we would like to thank everyone involved from the bottom of our hearts.

Make sure you follow us on Facebook (Florida Dental Association) and Twitter (FDADental) — we will be posting throughout the event, and encouraging those involved to post using #FLAMOM.