Dr. Cameron Lewis is one of the dozens of oral surgeons who take their practice on the road.
“My main goal was to reach out to people of all aspects, all around the world, all around different communities, and to be around to be able to supply the need that most people would need around different communities,” Lewis said.
It wasn’t originally his goal. However, while in school, Lewis took a trip to South Africa that changed his life.
“I saw people all over, in emergency rooms, holding their hands up to their mouth. And they were in so much pain. There was so much, so much anxiety where they had one dentist, one dentist that would come around for six hours one day a week,” Lewis said.
Rural America also faces dentistry challenges. A government study shows approximately 67% of the nation’s dental health professional shortage is in rural America.
As the former dean of multiple U.S. dental schools, Dr. Leon Assael has spent much of his career coming up with solutions to close the gap.
“An average dentist needs a population of 2,000 people to support a practice. So, if you, if you look at the typical town of 2,000 people, you must have at least one dentist in that town. But for an oral surgeon, 75,000,” Assael said.
A solution to the problem is an oral surgeon who travels to the patients.
Lewis went against the odds and did just that.
"Instead of me open the office, why don't I just travel to a few offices and be able to meet the needs that the people need in each community," he recalled.
It’s a partnership that has everyone smiling. Lewis works with dentists throughout rural New York and Connecticut. When a patient needs a procedure, Lewis goes to the patient’s regular dentist's office.
Lesleen Thomas is one of Lewis’ patients. She recently had tooth extractions, a procedure she otherwise might have left unattended.
“And if it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't have got the process started,” Thomas said.
The Centers for Disease Control reports nearly 26% of adults have untreated dental issues. For children, that number is just over 13%.
“Basically, you can die from a tooth infection,” Lewis said.
For Thomas, it’s convenience and peace of mind.
For Lewis, it’s about saving as many lives as he can— no matter where that road to better oral health takes him.