New Dental School Expected to Aid Southwest Virginia Residents - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

New Dental School Expected to Aid Southwest Virginia Residents

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While the dentist might be a dreaded visit for some, it turns out some people in Southwest Virginia aren't going at all.

It's an alarming fact that Sheree Madison is working to turn around. She's helped start a widespread initiative in the New River Valley to provide free dental care to low-income families.

"There is a lot of people who fall through the cracks," Madison said. "They don't have dental insurance and they can't afford to have the dentistry completed. Our emergency rooms are overfilling with people that have dental problems."

According to Dental Aid Partners of the NRV, 25 percent of people over the age of 60 in the New River Valley have lost all of their teeth, and 21 percent of adults in Montgomery County haven't been to the dentist in over two years.

In Floyd County, a dentist is hard to come by. For every dentist, there are 6,800 patients. That's one of the highest ratios in the state of Virginia.

While several hundred patients will be treated for free on Friday, the list continues to grow.

"The need for dental care is great," Dr. Frank Serio said.

And soon a new dental school though Bluefield College is hoping to meet that need. Serio is the dean for the Bluefield Dental School of Medicine. When it opens, it will be only the second of its kind in the commonwealth.

Those senior students will also be providing free dental services in various clinics throughout Southwest Virginia. It's an opportunity Serio says is great for low-income families.

Serio says the school will also encourage students to open up more dental practices in our area.

"It's giving young people reasons to stay in this community, where they find out one, they can make a difference in their community and two, they can make a living doing it," Serio says.

The school is set to open in the summer of 2016 in Tazewell County.