Helping Memphis Smile

by Sandi Butler Hughes, photos courtesy of Church Health

Studies have proven that oral care is essential to overall good health, however dental care can be a very costly expense. Tennessee does not cover dental care for adults on Medicare, and dental coverage for the working uninsured is difficult to obtain and afford.

The Church Health Dental Clinic is assisting Memphians in acquiring this life-changing treatment. Church Health is a vital component for healthcare services in Shelby County, and with the recent move to the Crosstown Concourse, the Dental Clinic offers expanded and integrative care for patients. “For example, if you came to your dental appointment but were experiencing low blood sugar that day, we could immediately walk you over to our medical clinic on the same floor and get you the care that you need that same day,” said Laurie Carlisle Hodge, DMD, Dental Director of Church Health Dental Clinic. “By having all of our clinical services (medical, dental, optometry, physical therapy, nutrition, and behavioral health) under one roof, we can offer comprehensive, patient-centered, efficient treatment every day,” she continued. The Dental Clinic grew from 10 chairs to 24 chairs with the move to the Crosstown facility, and is projected to serve 15,000 patients in 2018. Four full-time staff dentists work alongside a team of 22 dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental residents, and patient care specialists. Dental volunteers also play a vital role in their ability to serve more patients, and Church Health is always looking for more pro-bono providers to lend their expertise to their growing team. According to Dr. Hodge in the month of January, 15 scheduled patient care shifts were to be covered by volunteers, and the need continues to increase for dentist volunteers as the demand for dental services increases. “Church Health Dental is able to offer comprehensive care thanks to our many volunteers and strong community partners like the UT School of Dentistry,” Dr. Hodge said.  “The School of Dentistry has been a part of Church Health’s mission in many ways by not only providing dental residents who rotate within our clinic, but also serving as a referral base for very specialized procedures when they are needed. Many of our volunteer dentists are UTSOD alumni, and they bring their time and talents to serve with us so that we can provide more care to more patients.” It is with the commitment and generous support of donors and corporate philanthropists, the Church Health Dental Clinic now has a state-of-the-art facility with the best in health technology to serve patients. “Strong relationships with Memphis-based partners are very important to Church Health as we believe the coordination of resources creates a larger collective impact on our community,” said Dr. Hodge. Dr. Hodge relocated to Memphis at the beginning of 2017, with her husband and native Memphian, Craig Hodge. For the previous eight years she was the Dental Director and Chief Program Officer at Interfaith Dental Clinic in Nashville, TN, and Interfaith Dental Clinic of Rutherford County. She also serves as adjunct faculty with Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee, and NYU Langone Medical Center. “We believe that a healthy, beautiful smile can transform the lives of Memphians,” she said. The Church Health Dental Clinic is making a difference – one smile at a time. Currently, to become a Church Health Dental patient, you must be an established Church Health medical patient or participate in the MEMPHIS plan. To learn more or to make a donation to Church Health, visit

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