Tree of Life moves ahead with dentists clinic

TUPELO – The Tree of Life Free Clinic is sinking its teeth into a new project.
The medical mission clinic, which started in January 2010 and opens twice a month, is proceeding with plans to create an addition to house basic dental services.
“We see 225 to 250 patients a month,” said Joe Bailey, founder and president of the clinic. “Many of them have very poor dental health. … We see a huge need for basic dental care.”
The clinic’s board approved the project this week and will next apply for the required permits from the city of Tupelo, Bailey said.
Builder Danny Hester of Calvary Baptist Church and the Harrisburg Baptist Church mission construction team will lead the building effort with assistance from other volunteers.
The addition will be built behind the clinic, which is at 541 W. Main St.
Dental equipment already has been donated and a number of dentists have committed to staffing the clinic. A $20,000 grant from the Dorothy D. and George H. Ruff Foundation will pay for the construction supplies, Bailey said.
Initially, the basic dental care will primarily be extractions.
“At this point, our goal is to get people out of pain,” said Tupelo dentist Dr. Beth Shelton, who has been working closely with Dr. Mindy Austin, a Tupelo dentist and Tree of Life board member, on plans for the dental clinic. “We have aspirations to do more,” she said, referring to such treatments as cleanings and simple restorative work-like fillings.
The Tree of Life clinic hopes to have the dental facilities completed in time for its July 16 clinic, where patients would be referred for basic dental care through the medical exam. The same guidelines will apply to dental patients as to the clinic’s medical patients – no private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
Once they begin, the dental clinics are planned for the sessions on the third Saturday. The clinics on the first Wednesday will remain focused on medical care.

Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@journalinc.com.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal