| May 06, 2016
This post originally appeared on Bellevue Presbyterian Church's blog. Written by Ben Vendelin, Mobile Dental Program Manager at Medical Teams International.
Roxanne was late for her appointment at the Mobile Dental Clinic stationed at a low-income housing facility on the Eastside. She was fatigued, stressed and concerned that she had missed her chance to be seen that day. For her, this was her only option and to lose it could mean months more of debilitating pain she had been dealing with for over a year now. She was late because she had been at the hospital that morning with her brother who had just been diagnosed with cancer. For most of us that would be a call to the dentist office to reschedule but when this is your only option you fit it in around a family emergency.
These stories are uncomfortably commonplace at our Mobile Dental clinics but here is the good news…
Dr. Karr, who volunteers his time locally with MTI, leads dental missions overseas, was able to fit her in. About thirty minutes and a couple of extracted teeth later, Roxanne finally felt relief and had the highlight of an otherwise difficult day.
The reality is children and adults from low-income families suffer from more dental decay and are less likely to receive treatment than those in higher income brackets. The situation is precipitated by high levels of poverty, coverage limitations of low-income insurance options, lack of insurance altogether and a shortage of accessible locations. Left untreated, dental problems lead to chronic pain, difficulty eating, speech problems and severe and debilitating health conditions. Healthy, pain free teeth and mouths increase confidence and can prepare patients for jobs and job searches.
Volunteers like Dr. Karr and many others bring hope and healing to people such as Roxanne by partnering with Medical Teams International and their Mobile Dental Program. MTI has eleven fully equipped mobile dental clinics that travel throughout Oregon and Washington caring for patients. The clinics are in high demand and are regularly booked out several months. In order to care for these patients, we rely on dental professionals with hearts for those in need to come along side and make a lasting impact.
If you are a dental professional there is a place for you. Dentists, hygienists and assistants regularly volunteer their talents around times that fit their schedules. We have people that volunteer from once a year to once a week and it all goes a long ways. We’ll have all the supplies and equipment you’ll need to be successful. Retired dentist? Washington has some incredible benefits for retired dentists who volunteer their time up to and including insurance coverage, license renewals and more at no cost.
Roxanne could have easily moved on to the next thing in this demanding day but she wanted to express her thanks for Dr. Karr and the other dental professional volunteers who were there that day. With gauze in her mouth and a smile on her face she insisted that we shoot a video on our phone. “I’ve never experienced care this good. I am thankful. This makes my day better and I am very thankful for the dentists. I want them to know – thank you, thank you, thank you”.
Never experienced care this good? How could that be?
My guess is because it came as a gift wrapped in compassion and generosity on a really hard day.
We are so blessed by the incredible volunteers, donors and staff who make our mission possible. Together, their support is making a real impact on lives around the world. On behalf of everyone we serve-- thank you!