By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Accessing dental care can be a struggle for many low-income families.

But one north Minneapolis dentist was committed for decades to make sure those families had access to quality care.

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Dr. John Williams dedicated his career to serving African-American families.

When he died in 2012, Children’s Dental Services stepped up to fill the void he left. And Delta Dental is doing to ensure his legacy continues.

Williams provided dental care for thousands of children and their mothers in an office above shops on West Broadway Avenue.

Dr. John Williams (credit: CBS)

What many didn’t know is he studied to become a dentist in between NFL seasons.

Williams played football at the University of Minnesota and went on to the NFL, where he played in two Super Bowls.

He is remembered today as a man who found a need and did what he could to address it.

“He went into the community and provided the care right there, and that’s a part of how he mentored me,” said Executive Director Sarah Wovcha. “You don’t set up a shop in Edina and expect everybody to drive, you know, 20 miles to come to the cure. You go right into the community where people live and bring the cure to them.”

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Williams’ family asked Children’s Dental Services to take some of their patients, and they jumped at the chance. They built the Dr. John Williams Specialty Clinic the next year.

“We gave $350,000 to add two new operatories, or two new chairs to this clinic, and they will be able to see 2,000 more patients per year,” said Dana Jenson of Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation.

(credit: CBS)

The foundation has partnered with Children Dental Services to make sure families continue to get the quality dental care they need.

Michelle Robinson says the care her son Nadaree gets there is incredible.

“I don’t know what I’d do without them,” Robinson said.

She says knowing the story behind the help she gets makes her even more grateful.

“Me knowing that he set up things like this makes me like real proud of him,” Robinson said. “That was like amazing for me [laughs]! It like help me out majorly.”

Tooth decay is the single-most chronic childhood disease. Children’s Dental Services is part of a group of safety net clinics where no child is turned away.

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Delta Dental is a big supporter of the group’s efforts to make sure all children get quality care.

Reg Chapman