Archive for the ‘Charitable Care’ Category

Tooth Taxi Stories from the Road – Veneta

Monday, June 1st, 2015


Tooth Taxi travels to Eastern Oregon cropped (2)

Veneta Elementary school Principal Olivia Johnson isn’t a math teacher but she figured out the perfect formula to help improve the oral health of children in her school.

DFO 3Olivia knew there were kids in her school that needed dental care and when her friend, Marquita Corliss with the Community Health Centers of Lane County, told her about the Tooth Taxi, Olivia got organized.  The school partnered with the Community Health Centers to conduct an initial dental screening so a list of students would be ready for the Tooth Taxi’s first visit.

Johnson got the staff involved early, and reached out to parents to let them know what the Tooth Taxi is, and that it was coming to town.  She used fliers, the school website and reader board, and plenty of phone calls to reach parents and recruit volunteers for the visit.  Johnson and school staffers worked with parents to complete necessary paper work for the children.  “It definitely takes a lot of effort on the schools part to reach out with parents,” Johnson says, adding she alone dedicated about 20 hour recruiting.  “I would do 200 hours if I knew it was going to pay off that way!”

DFO 2During the first visit, the Tooth Taxi screened 44 students and 84 percent needed treatment. Tooth Taxi staff led classroom oral health presentation for 159 students during that visit, and the dental team provided $26,596 in free dental services.

“That just made a huge difference and had such an impact,” Johnson says.

Since the Tooth Taxi has been visiting Veneta Elementary, Johnson has seen firsthand the impact of its services, including improved attendance and classroom participation by children. “I’ve seen kids who are actually happier. I’ve seen kids who are more on task. I’ve seen parents who are grateful for the support and the help, and the kids are excited to go to the Tooth Taxi,” she says.

DFO 4Carrie Peterson, the Tooth Taxi’s program manager, says the commitment of Johnson and other school staff, as well as engaged parents and volunteers, are among the qualities that make Veneta Elementary a model site for the Tooth Taxi.

During its most recent visit, the Tooth Taxi completed treatment on all of the children identified during the initial screening.  In total, visits by the Tooth Taxi have provided 133 students with dental screenings (identifying some serious health issues), 289 students received oral hygiene presentations in their classroom, and 150 children received preventive and restorative dental care on the van.  The total value of the donated dental services is conservatively estimated at $89,855.  More importantly, results show that the combination of committed school partners, parent involvement, oral health treatment and education, and repeat visits make a real difference for children.  It’s a winning formula for children who are not getting into see a dentist.



Teeth Healthy Snacks for Kids

Monday, January 6th, 2014

By Dr. Andrea Beltzer

Happy carrot chomping girl

Feeding my kids isn’t always easy.  As parents, we are constantly bombarded with information about what is healthy and what is potentially harmful for our children’s little bodies.  As a parent, I take these decisions very seriously knowing that the choices I make for my kids now will likely impact the choices they will make for themselves when they are older.

I have two children, Lucy who is five and Charlie who is two.  They couldn’t be more different in their eating preferences and habits.  Lucy has a major sweet tooth.  We were recently at her friend’s birthday party at OaksPark.  There were lots of treats being served, including lemonade, fruit punch, cotton candy, chocolate cupcakes, and cups of ice cream.  The kids were sitting at a long picnic table, and the adults were chatting at another table.  It was crowded, and I wasn’t really keeping a close eye on what Lucy was choosing to eat at the other table.  As the kids’ table emptied out, Lucy was still sitting there finishing her chocolate cupcake after having a cup of lemonade, most of her cotton candy and the cup of ice cream.  Most of the other kids had abandoned their treats half-eaten, but not Lucy.  This was her chance, and she was going to consume as much sugar as possible in one sitting, since I wasn’t right there to monitor what she was eating.  I went over to her, and we had a little conversation about making good choices, and how eating all of those treats so quickly was probably going to make her feel a little sick later on.   Then I proceeded to try to wipe off all of the gooey chocolate and sticky cotton candy that was all over her face and hands and have her drink a cup of water to try and neutralize some of the acid that was being produced by those sugar-loving bacteria in her mouth.  Some of the parents who were standing around us chuckled with me knowing that I am a pediatric dentist, and it’s my kid who is the last one sitting at that picnic table trying to devour every last gram of sugar that she can.  Parenting fail?  No, not really.  I was more amused by the situation than embarrassed.  I know that what really matters in the long run is the every day choices that we make, not the very occasional big treat that sometimes happens during special occasions and holidays.

Charlie, my two-year old, is the exact opposite of Lucy in many ways, including his eating preferences.  He enjoys something sweet here and there, but will typically have a few licks of a popsicle after dinner in the summertime, and then decide he’d rather get down and play instead of finishing his treat.  My challenge with him is that he’s a grazer.  He is two years old and easily distracted, so unless he is starving, mealtime can take a very long time, and sometimes can result in him not eating much at all.  As a result, he likes to snack or “graze” in between meals.  His top choice of snack would be crackers or chips, and he could graze on chips and crackers all day long if we let him.  We know though that a diet of chips and crackers is not good for his body or his teeth!

Many parents are surprised to learn that even snacks like crackers can contribute to tooth decay.  Any snack that is rich in carbohydrates can lead to tooth decay, even it’s not necessarily considered a “sugary” snack. This is particularly true for kids that tend to graze all day long on carbohydrate-rich snacks, including crackers, chips, cereal bars, fruit snacks, raisins and dried fruits.  Studies have shown that it is not only the quantity of sugar consumed that can lead to decay, but it is also the frequency with which the sugars are consumed.  It is much worse for a child to sip on juice or snack on crackers if they are sipping or snacking over a long period of time, than if they were to have a few ounces of juice with their breakfast.  I’ve alluded to the role that bacteria play in tooth decay.  We all have bacteria in our mouth and some of these bacteria are responsible for contributing to decay.  The bacteria consume the sugars that we consume, and then produce acid which breaks down tooth enamel causing cavities.  If the bacteria are fed all day long by those who graze on carbohydrates throughout the day, they are constantly producing acid, and the mouth remains at an acidic pH for long periods of time which results in tooth decay.  Preventing your children from grazing throughout the day on carbohydrate-rich snacks is important for the health of their teeth.

Limiting juices, flavored milks, and other sweetened beverages, as well as encouraging your children to drink a lot of water in between meals can go a long way to prevent cavities.  Chewy snacks that are high in sugar, such as fruit snacks, raisins and dried fruits should be avoided in general, but especially for children with deep grooves on their molars.  These snacks really stick to teeth and are hard to remove from teeth even with good tooth brushing.

I have discussed a lot of things to avoid, so now I will talk about some of my kids’ favorite “teeth-healthy” snacks.  My kids love avocado, and that makes a great snack all on its own or sliced lengthwise with sliced turkey or ham rolled around it.  If your child is old enough and doesn’t have any nut allergies, nuts are a great snack food too.  My kids love almonds and cashews.  Whole fruits (not dried) and veggies are great.  My kids really started taking more of an interest and were more adventurous with trying different fruits and veggies when we planted a vegetable garden.  They love picking strawberries, cherry tomatoes and yanking carrots from the ground in their own backyard!  Other favorite fruits and veggies in our home are celery sticks with cream cheese, apple slices, Satsuma oranges, and carrot sticks.  Bananas are always a good portable snack when you are on the go.  They are nutritious and filling.  For kids that can tolerate dairy, cheese sticks are another easy “tooth-healthy” snack.  My kids also really love hummus, and almost any veggie tastes good dipped in a little hummus.  Costco sells boxes with individual servings of hummus that are very convenient for snacking.  Olives are popular in my house, not only because you can have fun putting them on your fingers but because they taste good too.  I also try to ask Lucy for ideas when I think she is getting bored with our usual lunches and snacks.  She often sees her friends at school eating things that I would never think to pack for her!  One of her school friends often enjoys red peppers stuffed with tuna salad for her lunch.  I would never think that a 5-year-old would enjoy something like that, but Lucy was interested in that because she saw her friend eating it.  Now she loves red bell beppers!  For some reason, kids always think their friends’ lunches look better than their own, so ask your kids what their friends are eating, and if they are interested in trying some new things!  You might just be surprised at what your kids will eat!


090725PTTBBELTZNERA11Dr. Andrea Beltzner received her certificate in Pediatric Dentistry from the University of Connecticut in 2007, and became board-certified in the specialty of Pediatric Dentistry in April 2008.  Along with her husband, adorable children and  two adorable dogs, Dr. Beltzner lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Passionate about helping underserved children receive the dental care they so desperately need, Dr. Beltzner volunteers regularly at Creston Children’s Dental Clinic, on the Tooth Taxi, at the annual Children’s Health Fair along with being a co-lead for the pediatric department at Oregon Mission of Mercy, and a volunteer on the Emanuel craniofacial team.

Medical Teams International Mobile Dental Program

Monday, September 10th, 2012

By Matt Stiller, MTI Mobile Dental Program Manager for Oregon

Kirk was the very last patient treated by Dr. and Mrs. Fankhauser.  Dr. Fankhauser, vibrant at 80 years old, has decided not to renew his dental license, which expires in two more days.  After more than 10 years of volunteering with Medical Teams International and providing more than $800,000 of free dental care, Dr. Fankhauser and his wife -assisting chair side all along the way – are retiring, again, from dentistry.

A month earlier, Kirk had come to Medical Teams International’s mobile dental clinic at the Canby Center to have two lower teeth extracted, and was treated by the Fankhausers.  “They’re really fast at extractions,” said Kirk. “They did two in 30 minutes.”  Did it hurt?  “I didn’t feel a thing.”

Kirk appears to be in his early twenties.  Most of his teeth are broken off at the gum line and all of them are beyond saving.  “I used to use drugs.  No one tells you the drugs will mess up your teeth so bad.  I’m cleaned up and I want people to know (the effects of drugs on teeth), and to stay off drugs.”

Now that he has quit using drugs, Kirk’s goal is to have all of his teeth extracted and get dentures. He’s been told the entire process will cost around $5,000.  With the two extractions performed earlier in the month Kirk estimates that the mobile clinic saved him $400 of the total expense so far.

At this clinic, their very last clinic, the Fankhausers stay late to extract 5 more of Kirk’s teeth.

“Teeth go out fast – over the last six months they have crumbled.  I thought I would have a year.  Last month I started getting abscesses, one after another.  My whole face just went.” Kirk makes an explosion sound and gestures with his hand to indicate his face “blew up” with severe swelling from the infections.

Kirk shares all this smiling.  Not about what has happened, but because he made a choice, he has a plan and he is taking steps toward his goals.  He has relocated, away from the places he used to use drugs.  He wants to replace his ruined teeth with dentures and today he will get a little bit closer to that goal.

Has the Mobile Dental Program been good for him?  “I was so glad when I heard the dental van was here.  I live right around the corner,” says Kirk, with a smile.

This all took place on March 29th this year, and I got to be there.  I’m not a dentist, but many times recently I’ve told myself that I should have been.  By talking with so many of our volunteer dental professionals and the patients they have provided relief and hope to over the past several months,  I’ve learned how painful, debilitating and detrimental to one’s health a toothache can be.

After this notable clinic, our site partner, The Canby Center, invited our volunteer dentist and his wife inside for a surprise celebratory retirement party.  Several previous patients had arrived and waited, while the Fankhausers carefully treated all of the day’s patients, just to thank the Fankhausers for the treatment they had received as well as the kindness and care it was administered with.  The Fankhausers leave big shoes to fill.

The party was a special event that day, but the clinic, only due to the commitment of so many volunteers, was just one of 15 Medical Teams International clinics in Oregon that week.  Since July 1, 2011 volunteer dentists, chair side assistants and hygienists have provided free urgent dental treatment at over 820 clinics in Oregon, reaching more than 8,700 patients.  Medical Teams International has simply been the vehicle, literally, as all these volunteers gave their time on board one of our 6 Oregon based Mobile Dental vans.

I appreciated reading Dr. Sean Benson’s story posted here on June 18th.  In it he encourages all dental professionals to volunteer in some way and in some place.  Here I’d like to thank all of you who have volunteered with us at Medical Teams International or in any other capacity.  It is a privilege to contribute in a small way to the gracious work that you all do. We look forward to seeing you again very soon, or to meeting you for the first time.


Matt Stiller is the  Mobile Dental Program Manager for Oregon. He  joined Medical Teams International in 2011 from an extensive background in the construction products manufacturing industry.  He was a key management team member at Contech Construction Products, Inc. for twelve years, before becoming a consultant for manufacturing and environmental companies. At Medical Teams International, his focus is on optimizing the Mobile Dental Program while seeking effective ways to expand its reach. Questions? Matt can be reached at  503-624-1095 or  800-959-HEAL (4325) or 


Out of State Volunteer Dentists Now able to Practice Pro-Bono in Oregon with New Temporary License Bill

Monday, July 9th, 2012

By: ODA Staff

The 2012 passage of SB 1509, which authorizes dental professionals who are licensed in other states and in good standing to practice dentistry without compensation in Oregon, was a celebrated victory for the Oregon Dental Association.

Oregon is now among the 39 other states, a growing number, that are providing dental boards the authority to license volunteer dentists who agree to donate their services to underserved populations, in an attempt to improve access to dental care.

“The passage of this bill will mean increased man-power at things like the Oregon Mission of Mercy. Which will, in turn, allow us to see and treat more people” said ODA Executive Director, Bill Zepp. Oregon Mission of Mercy is the ODA’s annual 2-day free dental clinic.  Last year 2,023 patients were seen over the 2 day clinic, which gave over $1.23million in free care out on a first come first serve basis. “This year, OrMOM is in Medford in September, so we are excited to be able to recruit willing dentists from across the border to help,” continued Zepp.

At the 2011 Mission Mercy we gave $1.2 million in free care to over 2,000 people at the Convention Center, Thanksgiving week, all thanks to our volunteers! To learn more about Oregon Mission of Mercy visit our website.

This temporary license is good for up to 5 consecutive days in any 12 month period, after the application is approved by the Oregon Board of Dentistry.

We are still looking for volunteers for this year’s Mission of Mercy in Medford, Oregon. If you are interested in getting a temporary license, fill out this form. The Board requires at least ten days to process the form, so get your application in early!


Dental Volunteerism Abroad

Monday, June 18th, 2012

By Dr. Sean Benson


After the New Year holiday passes, and the cold and snow are permanent residents in Baker City, I start to focus on a warm tropical climate. Before you think I am describing some time off with relaxation at a luxurious resort I should clarify that the warm tropical climate is in Honduras, and it is hot, muggy, and malaria ridden. I start to think about if my typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus vaccinations are up date. Reminding myself to start taking my doxycline for malaria prohylaxis the few days before we hit San Pedro Sula. Double and triple checking my supply list. Do I have enough anesthetic, antibiotics, and analgesics? Do I have all my instruments, and disposable supplies. Will they all make it through customs? As you read this your first thought might be why?

I started to going to Honduras because of my good friend Jon Schott, MD. He had been going for several years and he had been providing basic medical care. He was frustrated by his lack of ability to treat emergent dental infection beyond antibiotic intervention. He believed almost all of the people he was treating needed some kind of basic dental intervention, and most had been suffering from an unchecked, and untreated dental infection for years. For several years I listened, empathized,  but was unsure if I could help. How would I provide care in the remote settings, and poor conditions that I had seen in pictures, and heard about in stories?



I enlisted the help of dentists who had done this type of thing in other countries, and came up with a plan. Dr. Weston Herringer Jr. was my mentor. He had been everywhere, and had done several trips to various countries. I borrowed, begged, and cajoled colleagues, dental supply companies, and honorary organizations. The first trip was hard, and tiring, and had its share of technical, and logistical problems…but was one of the most emotional rewarding experiences I had in long time. I was hooked.



These trips have become a part of my year. A chance to put things in perspective for myself, and take time to realize how truly fortunate I am.  I know everybody who volunteers says this, but it is true. The purity of doing volunteer dentistry is a recharge to myself professionally, and keeps me coming back for more.

I encourage everyone to volunteer for the profession in some capacity. Where, and how do not matter as much as the doing. The rewards will benefit the patient, the profession, and yourself, and provide unforgettable memories, and experiences that will make your time in practice complete.


Sean A Benson, DDS, graduated with his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from Ohio State University in 1998.  He currently is practices in Baker City and is an active member of the ODA, ADA and OHSU. In addition to volunteering his time abroad, Dr. Benson helps out with Northwest Medical Teams, Donated Dental Services, Give Kids a Smile Volunteer Day and is an Eastern Oregon Red Cross Advisory Board member.


Changing Lives, One Smile at a Time, through Oregon Donated Dental Services

Monday, May 14th, 2012

By Gary Cummins, Vice President, Affiliate Operations, Dental Lifeline Network

Imagine being diagnosed with cancer and learning that the same infection that causes your painfully, swollen mouth and oversized jaw also will prevent you from receiving chemotherapy that could save your life. Your oncologist will not approve chemotherapy unless you get the dental care you cannot afford. This was the reality for 61-year-old Bryce of Portland. Without dental treatment, chemotherapy would suppress Bryce’s immune system, allowing infection from his severe dental disease to spread lethally throughout his body.

Unemployed due to extensive health issues, Bryce could not afford the nearly $4,000 in dental care he desperately needed. The Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) would cover his medical care, but Medicaid almost never covers dental care for adults. Yet, in Bryce’s case as in many others, it was the first priority to save his life. Through the Donated Dental Services (DDS) program of Dental Lifeline Network –Oregon, DDS volunteer Dr. Eric Dierks generously worked to extract Bryce’s teeth, enabling him to receive dentures.

“The pain of my bad teeth is gone—no more infections or swollen jaw. It’s a lot easier to smile. Life is looking really good. I’ve got teeth, no cancer and now as soon as I get my energy back, I’ll have it made!” Bryce said.

Since 1988 when the Oregon Dental Association partnered with Dental Lifeline Network – Oregon to create the Oregon DDS program, 318 volunteer dentists such as Dr. Dierks and 150 volunteer laboratories have served 2,777 people with disabilities or who are elderly or medically fragile. Those volunteers have contributed over $6 million worth of vitally needed care.

Victoria, of Grants Pass, is a 14-year-old girl diagnosed with Down’s syndrome who loves sports, dance and music. She needed orthodontic treatment to straighten her teeth and brighten her smile.Victoria’s mom stays at home to take care of her and, with only one income,Victoria’s family could not afford the care she needed. DDS volunteer Dr. Lance West provided new braces and the dental care Victoria needed. She loves her smile.

Oregon’s program is part of a national DDS network that has 15,000 volunteer dentists and nearly 3,350 laboratories. These volunteers generously donate their time and services to help patients like Bryce and Victoria, who are in need and have no other way to get help. Volunteering is easy. Dentists see patients in their own offices on their own schedule. As a volunteer, you have the right to see or decline any patient and determine your own treatment plan. A Program Coordinator serves as the liaison between the dental office and the patient and arranges for assistance from specialists and laboratories. There is no extra paperwork for the office staff and you never pay lab costs.


To become a DDS volunteer dentist, please contact Oregon Program Coordinator Dawn Bowman at or (503) 594-0837. For more information, visit our website at

Sponsors and funders of Donated Dental Services Oregon are: Oregon Dental Association, Autzen Foundation, Dental Lifeline Network, Meyer Memorial Trust, PacificSource Charitable Foundation, Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust and Wessinger Foundation.


The Dental Foundation of Oregon Tooth Taxi

Monday, April 30th, 2012

By: Mary Daly

The Tooth Taxi is a 38’ state-of-the-art dental office on wheels with two dental chairs, a full-time dentist, two dental assistants and a program manager. It visits schools and community sites throughout Oregon to provide free dental care and oral health education to uninsured and underserved children.

The van spends up to a week at a school/site providing dental screenings, cleanings, sealants, X-rays, fillings, minor oral surgery and in-classroom oral health education. Each child receives oral hygiene instruction, a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mirror, and a brushing timer.

Site partners and schools are selected based on high percentage of students qualifying for the free & reduced lunch program, limited or no access to dental care and a dedicated project coordinator from the site to prepare for the Tooth Taxi visit.

The Tooth Taxi was created through a partnership with OEA Choice Trust, ODS, and The Dental Foundation of Oregon, the charitable arm of the Oregon Dental Association. The van is funded by leading foundations, corporations and individuals who care deeply about improving the oral health of Oregon’s children.

The Tooth Taxi team is charged with implementing the Dental Foundation of Oregon’s mission, “Improving oral health for Oregon’s children.”

In our fourth year of service we continue to modify and evolve the program to enhance services rendered.  We have instituted repeat site visits that account for 40 percent of our visits, decreasing the introduction time necessary with the site partner and allowing us to complete treatment on many students.  Our program can be a bit intensive for some schools, especially in light of diminished budgets and staff. Return visits allow us to make more of an impact both with education and with treatment rather than just reaching the tip of the iceberg.

At the end of each site visit a list of students identified as uninsured and still needing dental treatment is given to the site partner to refer students to The Children’s Program.  This not only provides a follow up resource but is a reminder to school staff that they have a referral option for students with dental needs throughout the year.

In 2011 we ran our most successful summer program partnering with school migrant programs and community non-profit centers.  Establishing relationships with dedicated site partners ensured a steady stream of patients and kept the Tooth Taxi on the road.

Tooth decay is preventable and that is a message we try to get across to students through our in classroom oral hygiene program.  Teachers are invited to sign up for a presentation from one of our staff members while we are on site.  With a focus on offering the education each week we have increased the number of students that receive the oral hygiene news.  This also prompts discussion in the classrooms and reaches the teachers who often share their own dental care stories.  Each student receives a bookmark that reinforces the oral hygiene message and each school receives a Tooth Taxi library bookpack, four books that provide invaluable oral health education information for teachers, parents and children.  How do we know the presentations have made a difference?  Checking out of the hotel Friday morning the desk clerk told us her kindergarten daughter came home from school all excited about the Tooth Taxi staff visit to her classroom.  She’s excited to take care of her own teeth and told her Mom “if you don’t brush them you get holes in them.”  She really liked the BIG toothbrush and the fake teeth.

Our ongoing goal is to keep the Tooth Taxi staffed (first things first).  It is a challenge to recruit and retain staff when the van is on the road three weeks a month, away from home Monday through Friday.  We modified our schedule so that we are within 60 miles of Portland during the summer and we spend every 3rd week within 60 miles of Portland (so staff can sleep in their own bed at night).  These changes allow staff to have a bit of a home life, take care of personal business, and stay in the position longer.

We give kids a positive experience and teach them to be good patients.  Acknowledgment from schools and parents reinforce that we are doing the right thing.

Dental professional volunteers are a key component of our program.  Volunteers are asked to give ½ or full day of services.  If we have two dentists in the van we set up our portable unit in the school for hygiene services by a volunteer hygienist. Volunteer hygienists provided cleanings and sealants to students that don’t need restorative care from the dentist.

Since the Tooth Taxi launched in late fall 2008 we have visited 157 schools/sites all over the State of Oregon, and served over 10,000 children while delivering $2,734,557 in donated dental services.  The Tooth Taxi services provide immediate relief of dental pain and infection for thousands of children who lack access to basic dental care, in addition to preventive services and education.


Mary A. Daly is the Program Manager for the Dental Foundation of Oregon’s mobile dental van affectionately known as the Tooth Taxi.   Mary has spent the past year criss-crossing the state of Oregon with the new mobile dental van, as close as she can get to her childhood dream of running a book mobile.    Mary may be contacted at 503.329.8877 or


The Creston Children’s Dental Clinic of Portland

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

By Dr. Kurt Ferré


Creston Children’s Dental Clinic is the only school-based dental clinic in Multnomah County, Oregon.  It has a long history dating back more than 50 years when the Assistance League of Portland (ALP) opened the doors to the clinic.  Due to capacity limitations, the ALP could no long sustain its operations, and the clinic was scheduled to close in early 2010.

In January, 2010 Dr. Dale Canfield, Lora Mattsen, Executive Director of the Multnomah Dental Society, and I met with one of Dr. Canfield’s patients, Duncan Campbell, who started a successful non-profit organization, Friends of the Children years ago, and Mr. Campbell outlined a template on “how to” set up a non-profit organization.

Thus, in February, 2010, a new non profit took over stewardship and operations for the clinic as the “Friends of Creston Children’s Dental Clinic” (FCCDC).  Easier said than done, however, because the IRS moves at it’s own speed, and it took almost 1 year to receive our official determination letter designating us as a non profit organization.  In order for us to be able to go out and do some immediate fundraising, we had to find a non-profit organization that could act as our fiscal sponsor.  Enter the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette.  Then president/CEO, Marc Levy, helped facilitate the process.  In a word, they were “great”, and they totally supported FCCDC without charging us any administrative costs.

So,  fund raising was our immediate task.  To keep the clinic open for the remainder of the school year (February to June 15th), we needed at least $30,000.00.  The Multnomah Dental Society donated $10,000.00, Lora Mattsen and I approached Multnomah County for $20,000.00 of emergency funding, and with the help of Commissioner Jeff Cogen and his chief of staff, Marissa Madrigal, the county commissioners voted 5-0 to grant our request.

Thus, with some breathing room, we began the task of building a sustainable model for FCCDC.  We wanted to return the clinic to a completely all volunteer clinic as regards to dentists and hygienists to reduce the clinic operating expenses.   Our first two recruits to board of director membership were Barry Rice and Sue Sanzi-Schaedel.  Mr. Rice is past executive director of the Oregon Dental Association, and now retired from his positions as an executive in ODS Company and Advantage Dental.  Ms. Sanzi-Schaedel is a retired public health hygienist with a MPH, having worked with Multnomah County Dental Health Department for over 30 years.

As Mr. Rice told me early on, our core quality that we wanted in any board members or future employees is that “their head bone has to be connected to their heart bone”.   Essentially, anyone directly involved with Creston has to believe in its mission.  Thus, we have recruited 3 addition board members, David Novitsky of the Daisey Company, Catherine Kittams, RN, a retired MESD school nurser in Multnomah County, and Jay Ward, a retired area sales manager with the A-Dec Company.  Our board is a working board, and they all bring long-time connections in the dental community to the table for the benefit of the clinic.

We have hired 3 wonderful employees:  1) Erica Soto, Administrative Director; 2) Annette Rotrock, lead dental assistant, who keeps everything running in the clinic area; and 3) Jenny Poach-Gagnon, our front desk extraordinaire (believe me, she does more than answer the phone and make appointments).  Both Ms. Soto and Ms. Poach-Gagnon are fluent in Spanish as our patient base is over 50% Hispanic.  While all the children are fluent in English, most of the parents speak little English, and it is wonderful having that resource to bring the families into the preventative picture to combat oral disease.  Lastly, we have an incredible grant writer, Eli Levine, who has helped the clinic obtain over $300,000.00 in grant funding.

In two years, the clinic has had a complete makeover.  First, we had the clinic completely painted and new furniture in the waiting area and back professional work area is all donated. We have 5 operatories, new A-Dec chairs, fiberoptic handpieces, and digital radiography, including panorex.  Again, much of this equipment was donated to FCCDC.  We have been amazed with the generosity of the dental community to help sustain the clinic.

With a good clinic infra structure in place, our focus is on the care of the low-income children in the Portland Public School System, ages 5-18, who lack adequate access to dental care.  We know that oral disease is a 100% preventable disease.  However, for this to be a reality, one needs education, prevention, and access to care.  We know that there are just too many holes to fill in our patient population.  Treating a disease and filling holes are not necessarily the same thing.  We need to go to the root causes of dental decay, and educate our patients in prevention.  This also means educating the parents of our patients in prevention.  We encourage every child in elementary school to sign up for the King Fluoride supplement program that is offered free to the children in Multnomah County schools (hopefully, someday soon we will see Portland’s public water supply fluoridated).

Our results have been most positive.  We now have a bulletin board full of patients’ photos who initially showed up with cavities, but at their next recall visit, they were cavity free, and now they are members of the “Cavity Free Club”.  It’s heart-warming to see how excited the kids are to get their photos on the wall.  We are looking to add additional bulletin boards, because we are almost out of space.

I’m embarrassed to say that I practiced 23 years before I did my first volunteer dental care.  I can honestly tell you that I get back in return from these children more than the sevices that I have been trained to deliver.  To break down the barriers for these children, to see a child, who was initially fearful about going to the dentist, and now love coming to Creston with a smile on their face……..priceless.

For those of you who are in a position to volunteer at Creston, try it.  I believe we’ve created a clinic and atmosphere that you will want to come back again.  If you are at a stage in your life when you cannot volunteer the time, please consider a cash donation in the form of a “Smile Scholarship”.  To learn more about Creston, visit us at


Dr. Ferré is a 1976 graduate of Northwestern University Dental School in Chicago.  He retired in December, 2008, after a 28 ½ year career with Permanente Dental Associates in Portland. He is past-president of the Multnomah Dental Society, and he currently serves on the board of directors for the Oregon Oral Health Coalition, the Oregon Dental Association’s Government Relations Council, and the dental advisory board for Medical Teams International (MTI).