A Tribute to Larry Coffee

Nearly 50 years ago, a young dental student dreamed to make a difference in the oral health field by changing the lives of people with developmental disabilities. He believed if diseases could be prevented, future generations would never be impacted by the ravages of seriously-neglected problems. The dreams of that dental student, Larry Coffee, have become Dental Lifeline Network, which has changed and saved the lives of thousands of people with disabilities, who are elderly or are medically fragile.

Soon after graduating with a degree in dentistry from Northwestern University in 1973, Dr. Larry Coffee founded Dental Lifeline Network, formerly known as the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped. Since then, DLN, alongside Larry, served over 600,000 patients.

Over the years, he has been given many awards including:

  • American Dental Association/Colgate-Palmolive Award for Outstanding Service to the Public and Profession
  • American Dental Association Health Foundation Federick McKay Award for Excellence in Preventive Dentistry
  • Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award
  • International College of Dentists — Outstanding Dental Leader Award
  • Oral Health America’s 2019 Champion for Change Honoree

In recent years, Larry has passionately advocated for more care for people with special needs. And he has engaged the medical community and national voluntary health agencies in raising awareness about the impact of illnesses on oral health and vice versa.

Now, Larry has decided to continue pursuing his dreams in a different way and many, including the staff and board of DLN, will miss him. Larry has been referred by his peers/colleagues as a legacy committed to solving problems, empathetic, an inspiration, caring, an outside-of-the-box thinker and countless other adjectives that couldn’t begin to describe the man who gave thousands of people a reason to smile.

Larry, had these parting words to share: “I fervently believe in DLN, its mission and the goodness, dedication, and abilities of the people who are involved. Wishing perfect health and an abundance of happiness to everyone who in the past, currently, and in the future virtuously strives to make life somewhat healthier, easier, and happier for others. Blessings.”