The new executive director of Affordable Dental Care comes from humble beginnings.
“I lived in a very impoverished village, there was no electricity, no running water,” said Areli Estrada, who took the helm of the Madison nonprofit earlier this year. “Those are my childhood memories. I have memories of my mom carrying buckets of water on top of her head. We’d dig a hole like in our backyard. She did laundry by hand. So, I come from poverty, I’ve seen it, I experienced it. And I know what that’s like.”
In 2009, Affordable Dental Care (ADC) was founded in Whitewater, WI to provide free dental care to communities in need. The dental clinic moved to Madison in 2018 and this past August, Estrada was named their Executive Director. Estrada was born in Nayarit, Mexico and her family moved to Los Angeles, California, early in her life in search of better opportunities.
Estrada’s work at ADC aligns with the clinic’s values of restoring hope, health, and opportunity through quality dentistry to the uninsured, at-risk population. They do not accept insurance nor compete with private practice dentistry or government community healthcare, but rather exist to fill the gap of patients who fall into neither of those categories.
“And our mission at Affordable Dental Care is to close the gap and the crisis of access to dental care,” said Estrada. “That is, by restoring hope, health, and opportunity to quality dentistry, we do not accept any type of insurance. So, we serve the uninsured and at-risk population. And the way we do it is a non-profit, partner power model, that treats any individual that has put off dental care due to financial, physical or educational hardship. We do a lot of preventative and restorative care. The population we serve is very complex. The undocumented population and veterans too. We serve people that retired and lost access to benefits. We serve the working class, so we really consider ourselves to be working on closing that gap.”
Although ADC works hard and provides services, they struggle with outreach, Estrada said. They are hoping to expand and get more publicity to support the population they serve.
“We do not have visibility in the community because we don’t have the capacity,” said Estrada. “We only have one dentist, one dental hygienist, two assistants and a manager. We’re a small clinic, but our services are in high demand. The clinic moved to Madison in 2018. And we continue to experience a high demand for our services this year. Up to date, right now, we already served the number of patients we served last year. We have served about 2,200 patients up to date in 2021. And we’re still expecting to serve an additional 500. Our numbers continue to increase.”
The increase in patients shows that their work is valuable and needed in Madison, Estrada said.
“I’m very passionate about being here,” said Estrada. “I’m really excited. I work with a very dedicated clinical team. And the way that we see ourselves is we’re doing a service to others. I feel that I’m a servant leader and its really great work. And I’m hoping with my new role here, we work towards our goal to expand in the future.”
ADC holds annual events to help with fundraising for their work. Their fourth annual Smileathon race is Sunday, Nov. 14. In partnership with the Madison Marathon, ADC holds this event to raise awareness and funds to support the community work ADC is doing through providing affordable dental care to Madsisonians. Supporting their events provides funding to those who need their services in the community.
Affordable Dental Care is located at 2110 Fordem Ave on Madison’s near east side. To make an appointment in English, call: (608) 622-4002 and in Spanish, call: (608) 622-0034. For more information, visit: http://www.affordablesmiles.org/.