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Dental FAQs


When considering the need for dentures, or any dental prosthetic, it is understandable that you will have questions. Local Start Dental is committed to answering all your dental frequently asked questions (FAQs). Dental FAQs pertaining to our services are expected, and we are happy to provide answers. Whether you have denture FAQs or more general questions, we have compiled a list of the most common questions and answers below.

Should you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to contact us at 919.569.5533.



Local Start Dental is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dental clinic that opened in August 2021 using a unique service-training model to provide reduced-cost or free dentures (with and without dental implant therapy) for low-income adults, including veterans, seniors, the disabled, homeless and the uninsured. At full capacity, we can serve from 1,500 to 3,000 patients annually.

Our 5,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art dental clinic is located on the ground floor of the new Willard Street Apartments, a Self-Help Credit Union affordable housing project next to Durham’s downtown bus station and regional transportation hub. The clinic has ten operatories, design and denture labs, a classroom, an X-ray room, and several consultation offices. Take a tour now

We pair advanced dental education with oral health services for adults who are edentulous (have no teeth) or are missing key teeth and have no affordable access to tooth replacement care.

  • The UNC Adams School of Dentistry (ASOD) operates a faculty-supervised 3rd and 4th-year student denture and oral-surgery practicum at the clinic each weekday alongside our clinical directors, UNC ASOD residents in graduate prosthodontic and periodontics specialty programs, and area dentists who are willing to volunteer their services.
  • Throughout the year, we also host professional continuing education courses for licensed dentists locally and nationally focused on efficiently incorporating dental implant techniques to improve denture care outcomes.
  • As part of the educational experience, Local Start Dental continually introduces practitioners to state-of-the-art dental technology, such as digital design and 3D printing of dentures and the newest dental materials and diagnostic techniques.
  • Dentists: Please click here to learn more about volunteer service.

Durham and the Triangle region are similar to the rest of North Carolina in terms of oral-health needs among underserved populations. The NC Oral Health Collaborative found in 2017 that the limited capacity of safety net clinics is a recognized barrier to care in North Carolina. Even in the best of times, large segments of the Triangle’s communities lack access to anything but the most basic dental services. In addition to the health risks of untreated dental distress, adults with even a few missing teeth often encounter difficulties finding jobs commensurate with their abilities and are relegated to low-paying positions or unemployment. Just a few statistics include:

  • Up to 30% of all North Carolinians over age 65 have no natural teeth
    NC has more than twice the national rate of costly emergency room dental visits where patients receive treatment only for pain, not for the underlying causes of dental distress
  • Untreated oral infections and decay promote a multi-year deterioration process, often leading to infection in other areas of the body and to larger health issues such as diabetes and stroke
  • Despite the large public health implications of oral disease, only 27% of dentists statewide accept Medicaid (as opposed to 42% nationally), and Medicare does not cover dental services
  • NC’s poverty rate of 16.1% puts 1.65 million people at risk for oral health problems. In Durham, 47,000 people live below the poverty level

There is a huge gap in service options for disadvantaged adults who are missing some or all of their teeth, and we are working in collaboration with others in the community to fill that gap:

  • Seniors disproportionately experience periodontal disease and tooth loss, which can lead to malnutrition and more severe health problems as their ability to eat diminishes.
  • Durham’s VA Hospital Dental Clinic must send 4,000 or more patients back to the community for care each year when it reaches capacity. For many of these patients, particularly those in need of extensive dental restoration, it can be challenging to find local dentists who will accept VA benefits. Additionally, not all veterans covered by the VA Health Plan are eligible for dental care, and 54% of veterans are not enrolled in the VA Health Plan at all. In North Carolina, 42% of veterans are older than 65, and 40% have a household income below $50,000, making major dental care a significant expense.
  • Four other non-profit dental clinics in Durham are able to treat about 4,000 low-income patients annually. However, they are unable to treat those needing dentures and other tooth replacement services, which they do not offer. Durham Health Department dentists serve only children and pregnant women.
  • Social service organizations throughout the Triangle serve thousands of clients each year who are dealing with substance abuse recovery, homelessness, disability, and lack of employment. Many of these clients require significant dental care. While Local Start Dental cannot eliminate poverty or reduce opioid abuse in our region, we can, over time, help thousands of people who need advanced dental care to improve their health and increase their chances of successful employment and self-sufficiency.

While the clinic is in Durham, we welcome patients from 14 or more nearby counties, including Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Cumberland, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnson, Lee, Orange, Person, Vance, Wayne, and Wake. Rural areas that face a particularly acute shortage of dental practices are prioritized.

The clinic’s downtown location is adjacent to Durham’s regional bus transit station and near several social service agencies.

Patients are screened by either the referring agencies or Local Start Dental to ensure they meet the income and health standards necessary to receive treatment. At this time, Local Start Dental is working with its local health agency partners to finalize patient qualification requirements.

Patients can be referred by health and dental agencies and nonprofits that pre-screen patients for financial need, in addition to contacting the clinic directly. Patients may also be referred by private dentists, primary care clinics, ERs, the Durham VA dental clinic, and nonprofits working with uninsured veterans, among others.

Local Start Dental is collaborating with a group of local health agencies, including Project Access, Lincoln Health Center, Samaritan Health Center, Duke Division of Community Health, Wake Smiles, Piedmont Health Center, and social service agencies, including Urban Ministries, Durham Rescue Mission, and TROSA. As our capacity grows, we continue to expand our outreach for patient referrals and to ensure that duplication of services with other agencies is avoided.

A Full Time Clinical and Assistant Clinical Director are on staff.  Our team provides care, helps orient and train volunteer dentists, and coordinates continuing education courses. The UNC ASOD dental students and residents in Graduate Prosthodontic and Periodontics programs are overseen by the Local Start Dental clinical director. Administrative needs, patient scheduling, and other clinic needs are currently handled by a full-time Business Director, and our Board. 

Local Start Dental is guided by a Board of Directors and an Advisory Council composed of local dentists. Local nonprofit dental, healthcare, and social service organizations further advise on the clinic’s operational structure and provide patient referrals (See “How do Patients Apply for Treatment” above). Learn more about our Team here.

We rely on a mix of financial and in-kind contributions and earned income. This mix includes:
  • reimbursements from Medicaid and the VA;
  • sliding-scale fees for patients who qualify for treatment under Federal poverty guidelines yet can afford payments at some level;
  • tuition from continuing education courses throughout the year;
  • in-kind contributions of equipment, dental materials, and supplies that are necessary to treat patients;
  • the value of contributed services from UNC dental students and residents, and volunteers; and
  • philanthropic contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations, service organizations, and others.
Your financial support enables Local Start Dental to provide more free and low-cost services. Please consider a donation or contact us for more information.

Rotary Clubs in Durham provided crucial financial support during the clinic’s start-up phase. We welcome volunteer assistance and plan to continue to reach out to more civic and professional organizations, communities of faith, and service clubs in the future. Please send an email to if your organization would like to learn more.