Almost everyone can relate to what it’s like to have serious dental pain. The throbbing and aching can be intense. Fortunately, most of us don’t have to live with it very long before we call the dentist and are soon reclining in the dental chair for sweet relief.

For too many in our communities, this is not the case. Without insurance, routine dental hygiene and necessary procedures are way out of reach financially for many people. They have no choice but to suffer, often losing their teeth when problems go untreated. Also, dental issues can be a sign of underlying health conditions that need attention. That’s why Medical Teams International uses a network of dental volunteers and mobile clinics to bring healing in the Pacific Northwest.

Dental volunteers lead the way

Our dental volunteers have skilled hands and caring hearts. Medical Teams staff and our dedicated, professional volunteers relieve suffering throughout Oregon and Washington, one patient at a time. Through our Care & Connect Mobile Dental Clinics, we provide free emergency dental care, health screenings and referrals. We serve those outside the reach of the traditional health care system and extend the reach of the existing system.

Medical Teams strives to serve wherever there are unmet needs. We provide care for Indigenous peoples, those with disabilities, seniors, people experiencing material poverty or houselessness, migrant workers, asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants, people recovering from substance abuse disorders, veterans and youth. Our services are free of charge to those in need.

Working closely with our community partners, we deploy our mobile clinics to a wide range of locations. For example, we provide on-site services at shelters, community kitchens, farms, schools and more. Medical Teams staff and volunteers address dental pain and urgent dental issues, including infection and tooth decay. Our main services include providing fillings, extractions, referrals to follow-up care for crowns and dentures or other specialty services.

Double trouble: One couple’s story

As bad luck would have it, Herica Hiram Phillip and her husband, Tijen Phillip, were both experiencing dental pain for a couple of weeks. It was tolerable at times, but very difficult to cope with at other times. When it was intense, it was the kind of pain that keeps you up at night, demanding that you do something about it. Unfortunately, this couple could not – until they learned about the services that Medical Teams provides in their community, thanks to our partner MultiCare.

Early in November 2021, Auburn, Washington resident Herica came across a flyer on Facebook announcing Medical Teams’ free emergency dental services at the Auburn City Seventh-Day Adventist Church on November 23. It was like an answer to prayer, Herica says, because she and her family had long since used up their small dental insurance benefit for the year from her job. With four young children and Tijen’s disability, the couple needed to find treatment options that would be low or no cost.

couple standing in front of Medical Teams dental van
Herica and Tijen Phillip are grateful for the dental care they received from Medical Teams dental volunteers.

Herica is somewhat shy but readily talks about what has brought her to the Medical Teams clinic on this day. She describes pain and sensitivity in two teeth. Tijen is dealing with a broken tooth and another, separate aching tooth. During the past few weeks, the two had been toughing it out together until Herica had found the clinic details on social media. It couldn’t have come at a better time for the couple.

When asked what she is hoping for from her dental appointment, she says she hopes for fillings or a root canal, so that she can keep the teeth that are hurting. She’s already missing several teeth, she explains.

“I’m just so happy that Medical Teams is here today to help us,” says Herica. “And not only us, but others, too,” she says, waving toward a row of people patiently waiting while completing paperwork.

Sweet relief

Tijen goes in first for treatment. Despite his leg amputation and crutches, he effortlessly navigates the steep steps into the Medical Teams Care & Connect Mobile Clinic. X-rays reveal the extent of his broken tooth and the infection with the other one. The decision is made to extract both teeth.

“Let’s get it out,” Dr. Sehe Han states about the broken tooth, walking briskly to the dental bay from the computer monitor showing Tijen’s x-rays.

The first extraction takes over an hour because fragments of the tooth are still in the gum and Dr. Han must remove each of them. The second extraction goes more smoothly.

Dr. Han is an enthusiastic dental volunteer for Medical Teams. She has a practice in Ballard, and she tries to volunteer for dental and vaccination clinics throughout Western Washington about one week out of each month.

“My passion is really for public health,” she says. “Giving back this way is a privilege for me.”

Herica is next. She finds out that fillings will suffice for her dental problems, although Dr. Han explains that one of them is so deep that she will likely need a root canal in the future.

After receiving their care, both Herica and Tijen smile and thank Dr. Han. Thankfully, the future looks brighter and feels much better for the Phillips.

photo of Karen Piatt



Karen Piatt
Communications Manager




Dental volunteers needed
Would you like to help patients like Herica and Tijen? As a dental volunteer, you’ll be treating those with the greatest health and economic needs. You’ll help free patients from dental pain to help them return to full and productive lives. Submit your application today.

Benefits of volunteering
You’ll receive up to 5–7 CEU credits annually for volunteering (for dentists and hygienists only). In Washington, free malpractice insurance and license renewal is available through the WHAA for volunteer dentistry. In Oregon, dental malpractice insurance can be covered in some circumstances, and fees are waived for volunteer licenses.

Questions? Email