The Idaho State University Pocatello Family Dentistry, Pocatello Free Clinic, and several local dental hygiene professionals teamed up to provide free screenings for individuals who cannot afford dental care.
Each patient had a medical and dental health review; basic oral cancer screening; radiographs to assess dental needs; and an exam to diagnose dental needs. Approximately 60 patients were seen who had been on the waiting list at the Pocatello Free Clinic. On Oct. 25 local volunteer dentists will perform extractions or restorations. Certified dental assistants will be there assisting the dentists and many registered dental hygienists will administer local anesthesia to streamline the actual treatment phase for the patients.
"There are a lot of people with no options for dental health care," said Mindy Hong, Pocatello Free Clinic director. "People come in with broken teeth, infections, and loss of teeth. They often explain that we're their last option. Before today, we had more than 200 people on the waiting list for the next several months. This is a great way to get patients in and taken care of. We’re very grateful to ISU for helping provide this service."
Volunteers from ISU and the community include Brian Crawford, department chair of dental sciences and program director; Kris Munk, Pocatello site director, resident dentists Josh Gruber, Brian Hone, Peter Lotowski, and Kyle McIntyre; Meg Long-Woodhouse, registered dental hygienist and board member of the Pocatello Free Clinic, certified dental assistants Josie Grischkowsky, Emily Stark, Betty Carrillo, Chris Thompson and Jerrica Parkin; Nikelle Morrison, receptionist; Mindy Hong, Pocatello Free Clinic manager; Brandon Call, former dental clinic manager; and Jeff Misner, dental clinic manager.
"It's a challenge for people who cannot afford dental care," said Crawford. "It is important for us to help folks and fulfill our responsibility of helping a community in need."
Dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants rushed around the clinic, assisting one another with x-rays and oral exams. The cheerful volunteers worked quickly, but took the time to carefully explain available procedures and treatment options to patients. Their goal was to see as many people as they could in the limited time period and form plans to relieve people of their pain.
"It's been a very busy day here," said Parkin. "This is a great program to help the community. This is my first time doing this, and it's been very exciting to learn how it is all done."
This is the third year the ISU Pocatello Family Dentistry has worked with the Pocatello Free Clinic to screen patients. One of the goals, expressed by Long-Woodhouse, is to help the aesthetics of patients' teeth. This builds self-confidence and helps people get back into the workforce.
"This is a huge benefit for the community," said Long-Woodhouse. "Thanks to our volunteers, we can see several patients and streamline the process in order to help those who need dental care the most."
The screenings will help give more patients the opportunity to see a dentist and receive free dental care in private offices in October.
"This really means a lot to me," said Kody Morrison, one of the patients waiting to be seen. "I am currently in a recovery program, and didn't care about my teeth before. It's great to have help in getting my teeth fixed. I want to get the health of my teeth back and feel more confident about the cosmetics of them. I am very grateful for this program."
For more information about the ISU Pocatello Family Dentistry and Pocatello Free Clinic visit www.fmed.isu.edu/ and www.pocatellofreeclinic.com/.