Dr. Scott Miller and Senator Todd Pillion, D.D.S. Meet with Senator Mark Warner in Bristol

Recently, Site Director Dr. Scott Miller and Executive Director Elaine Smith of Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center (AHCDC) had the opportunity to join Senator Mark Warner, Delegate Terry Kilgore, Delegate Israel O’Quinn, and Senator Todd Pillion in Bristol. At the event, Scott Miller D.D.S. had an opportunity to thank Senator Mark Warner for his support of the clinic. 

Most recently, funding was awarded through Congressional Directed Spending. AHCDC began after Dr. Miller realized patients needed access to dental care five days a week, not just one weekend a year at summer or weekend clinics. His mission began in 2000 and provides dental services to the medically underserved and patients with limited opportunities for dental care in Southwest Virginia. 

Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center is the largest clinic accepting Medicaid in Southwest Virginia. In addition, the site is a residency site, training seven dental school graduates (residents) annually in a dental health professional shortage area. 

Located in Abingdon, Virginia, AHCDC is a community partner for recovery and restoration, providing cleanings, sealants, bonding, crowns and bridgework, fillings, implants, oral cancer screenings, periodontal disease, removable dentures, root canals, extractions, and blood pressure screenings. Since opening its doors in 2020, it has served 18,493 patients in Southwest Virginia. 

In 2023, 7,514 appointments occurred at the clinic, providing treatment to 2,904 individual Southwest Virginia patients. It is the only organization in the region with the capacity to provide both general and specialized/procedural dental services for patients with limited resources. Referrals are received from free clinics, hospitals, private dental practices, health departments, social services organizations, and federally qualified health centers for uninsured and underinsured patients.

To expand the number of dentists in the region, AHCDC provides clinical space and mentorship for dental students who serve their residencies through Johnston Memorial Hospital’s (JMH) Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program (AEGD). Upon completion of residency training, the dentists are prepared to serve their community by practicing comprehensive dentistry and caring for diverse populations. These are high-paying jobs that raise the economic profile of the communities they serve. 

The clinic started with one resident and has recently expanded to seven residents. With this year’s residents, a total of 22 young dentists will have trained in Advanced Education General Dentistry. Of those 22, 6 chose to stay and practice in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee. In addition to residents, some previous staff members are in pathways at colleges and universities to become dental hygienists and dentists.

The unique model, consisting of Medicaid, sliding fee scale, serving uninsured and underinsured, is gaining attention in surrounding states, such as Tennessee to address access to care.

"I see the number of patients in the community in need of oral health care growing every year. So many people are hurting and in need and praying for some hope. We can give them that hope when we restore their smiles. It will give them confidence, they’ll be able to enter the workforce again, and they’ll be out of pain. My vision is to see that number reduce because of the support this dental center can provide.”

— Scott Miller, DDS, Site Director