Local dentist recognized for helping uninsured, underinsured get dental care



Dr. Shanetta Sutton always believed in doing community-based work, even while running her own private dental practice, which led her to volunteer with Good Neighbor House for a number years before joining their team.

Sutton was recently recognized the 2023 Free Clinic Dentist of the Year by the Charitable Healthcare Network in partnership with the Ohio Department of Health.

“It was very rewarding,” Sutton said. “The job that I do, I’d never seek out accolades or pats on the back. I just do what I do. So to be recognized in that manner that I’m giving back, it’s an honor.”

Sutton started volunteering for Good Neighbor House around 2009 after she had spent time volunteering with the Samaritan Health Center, formerly the Samaritan Homeless Clinic.



Sutton volunteered weekly up until the pandemic, which after the lockdowns ended and services began to open back up, she had a backlog of patients at her private practice who she needed to see.

“When we were able to go back to work, I had to devote that time back to my private practice because I had so many people that we had to cancel from March to August that they needed to get back in with their cleanings and fillings and all that kind of stuff. So I needed to be there every day,” Sutton said.

Sutton did not forget about the Good Neighbor House, though, and she eventually decided to end her private practice so she could join the team at Good Neighbor House, where she is also a member of the organization’s administrative staff.

“Upon prayer, and talking it over with my family, I decided to shut my private practice down and come and be full-time here at the Good Neighbor House,” Sutton said.

Deciding to shut down her private practice was bittersweet, she said.

“It was a huge decision because I was in my private practice for 18 years and I had my loyal patient base,” Sutton said.

She watched the kids she worked with become adults, but the decision also helped her have more time to spend with her own daughter, who was in high school at that time.

“Having a little bit of time not being a business owner to give back to my daughter, spend more time with her during the day, was kind of beneficial as well, so it kind of worked out for all of us,” Sutton said.

Now at Good Neighbor House, Sutton works with patients who may not otherwise be able to afford dental care, either due to having no dental insurance or being underinsured.

“I can tell you about all the tears that are shed when I give someone their smile back by giving them dentures or the relief in someone’s face when they come in as an emergency and they say to me, ‘Oh my God, I could not wait to see you today,’ because they’re in so much pain,” Sutton said.



Sutton also does work with the MonDay program, offering people with a substance use disorder dental care that may have otherwise impeded their recovery.

“Dr. Sutton is a bright and uplifting presence for the staff, a skilled professional for our patients, and a critical part of our Dental program. Because of her, GNH has reached and is maintaining a level of service and number of provided visits that rises above even that which we achieved before the pandemic. She is an indispensable part of the GNH family,” read the nomination for this award.

Sutton was born and raised in Dayton and graduated from Patterson Cooperative High School in 1989, Tennessee State University in 1995, and Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in 2000. Sutton completed her general practice residency at the Dayton Veterans Administration in 2001.

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