Medical Teams International Mobile Dental Program

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 mstiller@medicalteams.org 

 

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