Something to Smile About

Annual No-Cost Dental Clinic Coming to Lakeland in May


Although all three of her stepdaughters have beautiful smiles, Skylar Fuller noticed they were smiling with their mouths closed in family photos. That’s not how someone with a great smile like theirs should pose for photos, she remembers thinking. 

They were using Mom as an example. Embarrassed about her dental appearance, Fuller never risked showing her teeth in photos. Her daughters were only following suit.

These days, she’s smiling more than ever after visiting Florida Mission of Mercy’s free dental clinic in Tallahassee in 2022. The staff and volunteers not only fixed her oral health and improved her smile—they restored her confidence. 

“Now I’m not afraid to show my family how to smile with their teeth,” Fuller says, “and how beautiful it is.”

FLA-MOM is a large-scale professional dental clinic that provides care to any patient at no cost to them with the goal of serving the underserved and uninsured in Florida — those who would otherwise go without care. 

As the nonprofit arm of the Florida Dental Association, FLA-MOM has received state funding and sponsorships from Florida legislators like Rep. Sam Killebrew and Sen. Colleen Burton, illustrating the importance of the program in Florida. 

“Your dental health affects your overall general health,” says FLA-MOM Foundation Coordinator Kristin Badeau. “Dental issues can get into your bloodstream and go into your heart and lead to medical problems. If you can start with your dental health, you won’t have the impact on your overall medical health.” 

This year, the Florida Dental Association Foundation and the West Coast District Dental Association is partnering to bring the ninth FLA-MOM free dental clinic to Lakeland’s RP Funding Center on May 31-June 1. As the state’s largest charitable dental clinic, the goal is to treat 2,000 patients.

Treatments offered at FLA-MOM 2024 encompass an array of dental services aimed at addressing a diverse range of oral health needs. The event serves as a vital platform for delivering essential dental treatments such as:

  • Cleanings
  • Exams
  • Fillings
  • Extractions
  • Root canals
  • Pediatric dentistry
  • Limited dentures
  • Partials

To qualify, all patients have to do is show up and wait in line. It’s a first-come, first-served event, and doors open at 7 a.m. Children younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian in order to be treated. 

Patients do not need photo ID or any other personal identification for treatment. There also will be some language translators on hand, but patients who don’t speak English might want to consider bringing an interpreter to help with important communications. 

Once the dental treatment is finished, the patient is sent home with resource guides, floss, toothpaste, and a copy of their X-rays. They are also given documents that show they’ve been seen, what treatments were delivered, and other relevant details for their records. 

R. Jai Gillum, director of foundation affairs, says the clinics are a profound experience for her. Not only does she witness a mass effort on the volunteers’ part to change people’s lives for the better, but she also sees how transformative the experience is for patients.

“To see the volunteers and their generosity and how well they take care of the patients and then see how grateful our patients are—they are amazed they can get this work done,” Gillum says. “Having their dental work done could mean the difference between getting a job or not. It could mean the difference between being able to eat or not. Their lives are changed.”

Fuller was one of those whose lives changed. In addition to proudly displaying her smile now, she is grateful that throbbing pain doesn’t keep her up at night anymore. She simply didn’t have any choice but to endure it until her visit to FLA-MOM in 2022. 

“I feel like I didn’t just get my smile and confidence back; I got my life back,” she says.

Veteran Initiative

In addition to the free clinic that is open to everyone, FLA-MOM is holding its Veterans First Initiative on May 30 to provide no-cost dental care to military veterans at the RP Funding Center. Veterans must register for an appointment by calling 800-877-9922. 

Seeking Volunteers

FLA-MOM 2024 is looking for dentists, dental hygienists, nurses, patient and volunteer registration, parking attendants, and more. If you’re interested in volunteering, visit

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