Providing critical dental treatment to the needy in Jackson Macon Swain & Transylvania Counties of Western North Carolina

Clinic Volunteers and Staff

The Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic and its ability to serve the needs of our community is dependent on a dedicated team of volunteers and a small number of full- and part-time professionals.

Dentists

Our volunteer dentists are our heroes, selflessly giving countless hours of their time, receiving no compensation, and deriving benefit only from knowing that they are providing a more normal life to those who would otherwise live in pain and misery. With well over 100 years of cumulative dental service, our team of dentists brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic. We currently have 11 volunteer dentists; photos and bios for several of them can be found below.

Christopher Dyer, DDS, volunteer dentist at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic

Christopher Dyer, DMD

Tommy Day, DDS, volunteer dentist at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic

Tommy Day, DDS

David Silverstein, DDS, volunteer dentist at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic

David Silverstein, DDS

David Jones, DDS, volunteer dentist at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic

David Jones, DDS

Claude D'Antonio, DDS, volunteer dentist at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic

Claude D'Antonio, DDS

John Berg, DDS, volunteer dentist at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic

John Berg, DDS

David Jackson, DDS, volunteer dentist at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic

David Jackson, DDS

Paul Decarlo, DDS, volunteer dentist at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic

Paul DeCarlo, DDS

Kathy Smith, DMD, volunteer dentist at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic

Kathy Smith, DMD

Christopher Dyer, DMD

Dr. Dyer has an active general dentistry practice in Highlands and began his service at the Clinic in 2008. His much-appreciated volunteer time each month allows more dental procedures to be performed, thereby reducing the ever-growing waiting list of patients.

David Silverstein, DDS

Dr. Silverstein is a native Georgian, growing up in Atlanta. He comes from a family involved in dentistry. His father was a dentist in Atlanta and taught at Emory University. Dr. Silverstein has practiced in Franklin for 39 years and his time volunteering at the Clinic has enabled us to serve many more patients.

David Jones, DDS

Dr. Jones graduated from Emory University School of Dentistry in 1974. He served our country as a Captain in the USAF from 1974 to 1976, followed by a private restorative practice in Atlanta until 2000. Since 2000, he has specialized in TMD and Orofacial Pain for Oral Surgery Associates in Atlanta. Outside of his dental career, David enjoys participating in canoe and kayak competitions. He was a member of the U.S. Whitewater Canoe and Kayak Team from 1980-1993 and 2006-2010. He is a past Board member of The Bascom in Highlands and an active watercolorist. David and his wife of 42 years, Vesta, split their time between Highlands and Atlanta.

Thomas Day, DDS

Dr. Day specializes in Endodontics (root canals), which broadens the range of services our Clinic can provide. He graduated in 1973 from the Emory University School of Dentistry and obtained his specialty degree in Endodontics from the University of Maryland in 1976. He practices in Augusta, GA but enjoys weekends in Cashiers and can be found at the Clinic one or two Fridays a month.

Claude D'Antonio, DDS

Dr. D'Antonio, a native of New Orleans, earned a Doctor of Dental Surgery from Louisiana State University of Dentistry in 1978. After graduation, Dr. D'Antonio opened a private dental practice in Bogalusa, LA, where he practiced for 30 years before retiring in 2007. He has been a regular visitor to the Cashiers/Highlands area since 1999 and now enjoys splitting his time between the mountains and South Louisiana. An avid nature photographer who also enjoys fishing and gardening, Dr. D'Antonio is married to Cheryl Magee D'Antonio, a practicing attorney. They have four grown children and five grandchildren.

John Berg, DDS

Dr. Berg graduated from the University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences in 1982. After graduation, he began his military career as a Marine Corps dentist. Three years at Camp Lejeune preceded his move back home to Chattanooga to practice dentistry. He continued to serve the military as a reservist for ten years. John is a member of the American Dental Association along with the state and local affiliates. He is also a member of the Academy of General Dentistry and a fellow in the Pierre Fauchard Academy. He and his wife Debbie have three children and enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities. Unique among our volunteers, Dr. Berg and Debbie work together in the Clinic and consider every day a blessing.

David Jackson, DDS

Dr. Jackson comes to the Free Dental Clinic from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is a graduate of Emory University School of Dentistry and has been a dentist in general practice since 1984. Semi-retired from his practice in Stuart, FL, Dr. Jackson serves as an Adjunct Clinical Professor at Nova Southeastern University School of Dentistry. He has been a volunteer dentist at the Free Clinic since August 2012 and is a wonderful addition to our elite staff. He and his wife Ellen are the proud parents of two children, two grandchildren and two pampered puppies.

Paul DeCarlo, DDS

Dr. DeCarlo graduated from the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1971. After two years as an Air Force dentist, he and his wife Linda Kay moved back to South Florida where he was raised. Accompanied by a loyal staff, Dr. DeCarlo practiced in Fort Myers for 40 years and found great fulfillment in church and community activities as well. After retiring In 2014, he and Linda Kay moved to North Carolina to be closer to their children and grandchildren. He loves spending time with his family and continuing his dentistry with wonderful patients and the outstanding staff at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic.

Administration and Professional Staff

The Clinic’s continued success has also been dependent on our small staff, who keep the Clinic running smoothly and make it possible for the dentists to work efficiently.

Michelle McDonald, DDS, volunteer dentist at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic

Michelle McDonald, DDS

Nancy Buchanan, Dental Hygienist

Nancy Buchanan

Robby Cahill, Dental Assistant

Robby Cahill

Gale Alford, Dental Assistant

Gale Alford

Michele Coward, Dental Assistant

Michele Coward

Melanie Jones, Executive Director

Melanie Jones, a Cashiers resident since 2007, has more than 17 years of experience in the nonprofit sector with a focus in building capacity for organizations through sustainable funding, strategic planning, and outcome driven programs and services. Her considerable skills will aid the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic, now in its eleventh year of providing free dental care to residents of Macon, Jackson, Swain and Transylvania Counties.

Ms. Jones has most recently served as in-house grant writer for the dental clinic, with experience as Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Transylvania County, and other influential jobs in fund raising and development work throughout the Southeast. She says, “I love growing organizations to meet the myriad of needs of the people it serves.” The BRFDC has been in growth mode since its inception, with more than 1,300 patient encounters in 2015 alone. Building on the historical success of the clinic and expanding the work even further will be primary on the docket for Ms. Jones.

Michelle McDonald, DDS

Dr. McDonald has been a volunteer at the Clinic since 2006 and was hired as the Clinic’s Staff Dentist in 2016. Originally from San Diego, she graduated from UCLA in 1993. Dr. Michelle migrated to our beautiful mountains in 2004. She currently has an active dental practice with Dr. Tim Spilliards in Cashiers and Sylva, with an emphasis in Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry.

Michele Coward, Clinic Operations Director

In January 2016, Michele was promoted to the position of Clinic Operations Director. She feels so blessed to have the opportunity to work at Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic and loves meeting all the patients and being able to help them in any way she can. The Clinic has such wonderful doctors and Michele finds it a joy to work with them.

Dental Hygienists and Technicians

The Clinic employs one hygienist and three dental assistants, all of whom work diligently to prepare the patients for various procedures and assist the dentists in their work.

Personal Stories from Our Staff

Nancy Buchanan, RDH

Nancy Buchanan, Dental HygienistI've been in the field of dentistry my entire adult life. I began as a chairside assistant, but soon switched to hygiene because of my interest in preventive medicine. Being a hygienist also gave me the ability to supplement my income with flexible hours, while spending time with my (then) small children. I knew, even then, that being a dental professional would benefit my family in many ways. Dental care is often not affordable, even for working families. Being a professional in the field ensured that my family's dental needs would be met.

Then came a period of time when I could not work. It hit me even harder then — how very difficult it is for people who can't work, for whatever reason, to afford basic, essential care. I was so relieved when I was able to rejoin the work force and regain access to dental care for my family!

In the long run, I feel that God has blessed me. My career has turned out well, and I now find myself blessed with an opportunity to give back.

When I first began working at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic, it was hard. I was used to private practice, where patients had their teeth cleaned every six months and the work was easy. At the Clinic, the patients we see had the most horrible problems. I would leave the Clinic every day exhausted and discouraged by the massive amounts of decay, debris, and disease I was seeing in our patients. I prayed for strength every morning that I was driving up the mountain to work.

The work is still hard, but I have grown to love the patients and to appreciate the difficulties that they face. After I clean the blackened teeth of some of our patients who originally thought they would be facing full mouth extractions, they are so very appreciative. They begin to feel better about themselves and to feel hope for the future. It is a great sense of accomplishment for me, as opposed to what I was experiencing in private practice.

I may be giving back to the community through my work at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic, but in the long run, our patients give back to me, more than I ever could have imagined.

Robby Cahill, Colonel USMC Retired

Robby Cahill, Dental AssistantEverybody has a story to tell. From two combat tours in Vietnam, to leading 2,600 Marines as a Battalion Commander, to Executive Director of a school for disadvantaged adults, to private consulting for the Orange County government in Orlando, to becoming a Dental Assistant! As I phased into what I thought was retirement, I became involved in the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic on the Board of Directors.

As the Clinic grew, we needed dental assistants to assist the growing number of dentists – "I can do that!" was my response. We developed a holistic approach, with each patient in need of not only dental care but other services provided by our community. Each patient has a story, has needs, needs we try to assist in meeting. This is a great clinic doing great things!

I also saw a need to educate children in developing sound dental habits, so I developed the Children's Dental Program, now serving our local schools for several years. As a Rotarian, I was able to convince the Club to fund the program. Funds from the Rotary Club and technical expertise from the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic make for a winning team.

Gale Alford

Working at the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic feels like coming home. I was raised on Gold Mine Road near Highlands and graduated from Franklin High School, but later moved to Las Vegas with my husband, who was in the Air Force. There, I received a degree from the American Academy of Dental Assisting. After my husband was transferred to New Jersey, I worked as a dental assistant there for eight years. It is wonderful to be back.

My dad was a Baptist minister, and I have always believed in the awesome power of God's hand in our lives. After I moved back to Highlands, I prayed and prayed that God would send me the right job, and He did. I believe that He sent this Clinic to the community, and I am excited to be a part of it and to serve Him through this unique and special ministry.