Foundation partners with agencies to provide free dental care

Weston Kenney | westonkenney@archstl.org

Derrick Crump was stuffed into a chair, a bright light shining on him. A stranger worked on his teeth in a procedure most people would dread.

Crump couldn't have been happier.

Afterward, standing outside the mobile dental clinic, his mouth still numb, he expressed thanks for the work of the dentist, Dr. Anwar Nabi: "He did a great job. He's smooth, too."

Crump had a tooth pulled that he said had been in decay a long time. "I'm good to go," he said.

The dental work came just in time as Crump was starting a new job that he got with the help of St. Patrick Center, a Catholic Charities social service agency that has helped him with bus passes, a background check for employment and other assistance. He has been out of work since March, and his new job involves securing new accounts for a company supplying seniors with caregivers.

The Pacific Dental Services (PDS) Serve Foundation, with support from Smile Generation volunteer clinicians and their dental care teams, provided free dental care June 16 and 17 to homeless or at-risk adults and teens.

Partnering with Covenant House Missouri and St. Patrick Center, the clinicians and dental care teams set up an onsite dental clinic outside St. Patrick Center and, in a matter of hours, treated more than 20 patients and donated nearly $10,000 of dental work. Using a mobile dental clinic set up in a large recreational vehicle, the team provided exams, X-rays, cleanings, extractions, fillings and same-day crowns.

The volunteers were Dr. Austyn Lehmuth of Francis Park Dentistry, Dr. Allison Winkler of Mehlville Modern Dentistry and Nabi of Creve Coeur Dentistry.

According to Tracy Smith, a spokesperson for the PDS Serve Foundation and Smile Generation, the mobile clinic is based in California and makes stops across the United States. Smile Generation is a referral service that connects patients with dentists in more than 400 dental offices in 14 states.

St. Patrick Center was an ideal partner because "it serves a large population of people who find it difficult to get dental work," Smith said. "We're very happy to be able to serve people who need it."

Covenant House, which serves young people ages 16-21 without homes and in need of immediate help, also was a fit. The agencies screened clients -- several of whom had been in pain for years -- and helped them fill out medical forms and releases.

"This was an opportunity to get some help right away," said Gene Schmitt, director of program support services at St. Patrick Center. "It helps people seeking work. Their smile is a little bit better, and it adds confidence in an interview."

Winkler met clients outside the mobile clinic, introducing herself and asking them about their needs. Learning that one woman hadn't been to a dentist in more than five years, Winkler assured her that she would get immediate help and information on clinics where she could receive follow-up care if needed.

A Seattle native, Winkler has done volunteer work in the past, including the Missouri Mission of Mercy last year, and found it easy to help with this project.

"I see people all day long who can afford a lot of very expensive treatment, but I know there are a lot of people out there who can't afford it and wouldn't have access," she said. "This is a wonderful way of being able to give back."

It's necessary, too, for healthy living.

"I have seen in the past infections end up spreading to people's brains, to the heart. It can affect your whole body," Winkler said. "It's really important to get that kind of thing taken care of as soon as possible."

More information

For more than 15 years, Covenant House Missouri has been a place of hope and direction for young people who are homeless and disconnected. The agency serves young people ages 16-21 who are without homes and in need of immediate help. Programming includes residential, support and outreach services, empowering youth to design their own path to opportunity.

Stacy Austerman, a Covenant House spokesperson, said the provision of dental services by the PDS Serve Foundation and the Smile Generation volunteers is among efforts to help young people who came from situations where they hadn't received basic care. "Meeting unmet needs is what Covenent House Missouri is all about," she said.

For more information on ways to help, visit www.covenanthousemo.org

St. Patrick Center provides opportunities for self-sufficiency and dignity to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Individuals and families build permanent, positive change in their lives through safe and affordable housing, sound mental and physical health, and employment and financial stability.

Besides the partnership with the dental volunteers, St. Patrick Center also works with the St. Louis area Lions Club, which funds visits from the University of Missouri mobile eye van. The visits provide eye exams and glasses at no charge. More than 300 St. Patrick Center clients have received glasses — people who most likely would not get the help otherwise.

For more information on ways to help, see www.stpatrickcenter.org. 

No votes yet