Menu Close

Our Story


Meet the team photo
The Local Start Dental mission and vision meet a critical need in North Carolina as the clinic restores smiles and confidence for underserved neighbors while advancing the clinical skills of dental students and professionals.

The Local Start Dental story began in 2018 as a conversation between Doug Brown (currently Local Start Dental’s Chairman of the Executive Committee), and the Dean of UNC’s Adams School of Dentistry.

Together, they saw a challenge: Most patients in need have very few options for obtaining dentures and tooth replacement services, while dental students training at the UNC clinic in Chapel Hill do not have enough patients with missing teeth to adequately learn denture techniques. So they were inspired to consider creative new ways to combine advanced clinical training for dental students and professionals and use that training to meet the dental health needs of underserved populations. Thus, Local Start Dental was born.

The Local Start Dental Mission Addresses a Critical Need in NC

Approximately 30% of all North Carolinians over age 65 have no natural teeth. Furthermore, the state has more than twice the national rate of costly emergency room dental visits, where patients generally receive treatment only for pain and not for the underlying causes of dental distress.

Edentulous adults are often treated as second-class citizens, facing economic barriers as well as health-related problems. Adults missing only a few teeth often encounter difficulties finding jobs commensurate with their abilities and are relegated to low-paying positions or unemployment.

Untreated oral infections and decay promote a multi-year deterioration process, often leading to infection in other areas of the body and more significant health issues such as diabetes and stroke. Yet, despite the considerable public health implications of oral disease, only 27% of dentists statewide accept Medicaid (42% nationally), and Medicare does not cover dental services.


What Makes Local Start Dental Unique?

  • Local Start Dental is a national clinical training center that provides free and discounted care to qualified patients in the Triangle and beyond (Local Start is a 501 c3 not-for-profit organization)

  • The program includes a UNC Adams School of Dentistry (ASOD) student practice, and an advanced continuing education for licensed dentists from across the country, with a focus on implants, oral surgery, and high quality dentures fabricated using digital workflows

  • Tuition from courses, in addition to Medicaid/VA payments, sliding-scale fees, and philanthropy, have created a sustainable financial model

  • Providers include a full-time practice clinical director, an associate director, UNC ASOD dental students, local and national volunteer dentists, hygienists and dental assistants

The Local Start Dental Story Continues One Smile at a Time

An infographic discussing the future of Local Start Dental. We anticipate that the clinic will reach maturity in about 3 years. Serving more than 3,000 patients annually. 160 third- and fourth-year UNC Dental students will gain critical experience using advanced tools and training for the benefit of patients who would otherwise not have access to care. We have 10 operatories. 4 will be staffed by faculty-supervised students serving an anticipated total of 12 patients per day, or 240 per month. 6 additional operatories will be staffed by a full-time clinical director and a volunteer corps likely to grow toward 100 licensed dentists from the Triangle.

If you or a loved one is in need of dental prosthetics, such as dentures or implants, call 919.569.5533 to book an appointment. We are committed to providing affordable, accessible dental services to adults with missing teeth who need denture services.

We offer a sliding scale fee structure so that our services are affordable to patients based on their ability to pay. We also accept Medicaid and VA benefits and provide additional payment options.

Our goal is to provide every patient with the smile they deserve, and we are proud to say that we have helped hundreds of patients achieve just that.

If you would like to learn more about our story, or to make a donation to help us continue our work, please visit our website or contact us online. We believe every story should have a happy ending, and we accomplish this by bringing restoring smiles and changing lives not only in Durham but throughout the region.