After working in manufacturing for 22 years, John suddenly found himself unemployed and without income or insurance to support himself or his family. “Before I got laid off I was a program operator and machinist,” John said.

As he searched for a new job, he decided he would get trained to become a licensed truck driver. But then, more bad luck: “I had a bridge on the left side of my mouth that had an abscess under it,” John said, “I tried every medication I could to kill the pain.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 26% of adults ages 19-64 have untreated tooth decay. But the rate is highest among adults with income below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.

John and his wife frantically searched the internet for a dentist who accepts new patients without requiring insurance or a large down payment. On top of the pain, John was kept awake trying to figure out how to pay for this crucial dental work.

“I kept thinking ‘How in the world am I ever going to pay to get my teeth fixed?’” he said.

Luckily, the United Way-funded St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Dental Clinic, sponsored by Columbia St. Mary’s, was able to provide John immediate help. “They took me in the next day, gave me some medication and a week later they pulled a tooth.” John said.

“The health of all citizens in our community is important,” said Joy Tapper, Executive Director of the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership. “The investments from the United Way impact everyone, regardless of your class, race or status in life.”

Last year, 87% of participants in Health Improvement Fund programs felt that their pain was managed or relieved by the services they received.

United Way funding will help complete John’s oral health plan with restorative care as well as a partial denture.

With his oral health and confidence restored, John continues to pursue his truck driver training and is confident he will be able to secure a job soon. He is especially grateful to United Way for their support in helping make that dream a reality.

“I never knew United Way helped people like me, but because of that, my whole outlook on life has gotten better and I’m not afraid to smile anymore,” John said.

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© 2020 United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County is a 501(C)(3) Nonprofit registered in the US under EIN: 39-0806190.