Good dental health remains a keystone to anyone’s overall health and, in fact, left unchecked, dental disease can advance far enough to create life-threatening circumstances.
The Key Free Clinic has run a free clinic every two weeks, but since the beginning of October it has been open weekly, every Thursday from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Dr. Jessica Schlicher, who serves as the volunteer medical director at the Key Free Clinic in Lakebay, knows the importance of good dental health and its direct correlation to a person’s overall health.
“Every clinic we see dental disease that could be life-threatening and right now there is nowhere on the Key where we can send them,”Schlicher said.
Schlicher also works as a family physician at Harrison/Franciscan Urgent Care in Port Orchard and said that on average, two people each month are checked into the Harrison Medical Center with life-threatening conditions brought about by dental disease.
Through a political association, she met with Washington State Rep. Michelle Caldier, of the 26th District —who also happens to run a private practice as a doctor of dentistry. Schlicher said Caldier is also involved with free dental clinics in Seattle. The two began talking about the dental health needs on the Key, which is part of Caldier’s district she represents in Olympia.
They discussed the service the clinic provides and how that service could be augmented with a monthly dental clinic if there is a need.
Caldier took a tour of the facility about a month ago “to figure out what makes sense”to provide dentistry services at the location. “When you start a new clinic, you want to utilize the resources as best you can,”Schlicher said.
Caldier has her own portable equipment, including a hand-held X-ray machine she uses as part of her private practiceserving patients in nursing homes.
After agreeing that she could perform dental services at the location, Caldier and Schlicher established the first free dental clinic to take place Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 21 and 22 at the Key Center business.
“The first day will be X-rays and extractions,”Schlicher said. “Basically we’ll put out fires and do the most critical work.”She noted they also need to establish patient records to determine what additional work may be needed.
On Sunday, patients will be asked back to get a cleaning by Caldier’s dental hygienist.
Like the rest of their services, the dentistry is free and there are no qualifications or paperwork needed.
“There is a huge need for free dentistry care,”Caldier said. Following the first weekend, she will assess the urgency of patients’needs to determine how often they may offer future dental clinics.
She knows that even offering free dental care, some people won’t come out to take advantage of the offer because of an overriding fear of seeing a dentist.
Caldier said it takes time to get a patient with a phobia to be comfortable and she may delay some work to allow them to feel more at ease and in control.
For patients where more intricate work may be warranted, the clinic will provide referrals.
The number one priority is to determine “where people are with their dental needs and make a treatment plan. And do any extractions,”Schlicher said.
Patients seeking dental care are asked to come by between 9 and 10 a.m. to get an appointment for later in the day. The clinic will run on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We are dipping our toes in to see what degree of outreach is needed,”Schlicher said. “Everybody’s had dental pain. You just can’t function with it.
“We’re hoping to get people out of that pain and give them a healthy mouth.”
They are looking for additional volunteer help for upcoming dental clinics, especially an additional dental assistant and dental hygienist.
Schlicher said there is also a need for more donated dental products, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss. Those items can be donated to KP Community Resources or be brought to Dr. William Roes’office manager, Carla Cameron, at 15610 89th St. Court KP N, Lakebay.
“For non emergent problems where you know you can see someone within a week, that’s comforting. That’s what we’re all about,”Schlicher said. “Our goal is to be able to provide the same level of comfort for those with dental issues if the program takes off.”
For information call (253) 313-5539.