BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
KAYSVILLE — A person’s teeth may be among the first things to be neglected when money becomes an issue.
Visits to the dentist can become infrequent or can stop altogether, sometimes resulting in cavities, gum disease and tooth loss, trouble chewing and eventual loss of health.
It isn’t a problem found only in developing countries or inner cities, but right here in south Davis County, according to Dr. Jim Guinn, a Bountiful resident with a dental practice in Salt Lake City.
Guinn serves as the director of Pantry Smiles, a volunteer program in which 30 south Davis dentists are turning things around for those in need of dental work, one mouth at a time.
It’s a partnership between the Bountiful Community Food Pantry, Davis Applied Technical College and the dentists. DATC advanced dental assistant students work with the volunteer dentists.
Patients live between North Salt Lake and Farmington and all qualify for assistance from the food pantry.
“Some of these people (patients) have been really suffering for years,” Guinn said. “A person’s health goes downhill when their teeth are neglected.”
The dentists provide a wide range of services to those in the program, including examinations, fillings, root canals, extractions, and crowns at no charge to patients, Guinn said. For now, they don’t provide dentures.
More dentists are joining each month, Guinn said. The DATC has hired Madelyn Heninger Radeke to coordinate patient care and Pantry Smiles Operations. Cathy Turnbow is the director of the DATC dental assisting program.
Dentists have treated individuals in all age groups. Most patients are adults, as children’s dental needs are often covered through other health plans.
The program is funded through private donations to the pantry and through a Davis County Community Development Block Grant.
Dentists who volunteer generally donate one Friday monthly, so that each can have some time off from dentistry, Guinn said. How much time they donate is their choice. Some come every other month. The more dentists who volunteer, the fewer shifts each must fill.
“Many hands make for light work, as they say,” Guinn said.
Supplies are provided through donations and discounts from dental supply companies, and Curve Dental donated software for tracking a patient’s care and provided training to the staff.
Since it survives on donations, Pantry Smiles coordinators welcome financial help from the community, said Lorna Koci, director of the food pantry.
The program started accepting patients in September 2012 and had treated 69 individuals by April 2013, according to information provided by the pantry. The service value of the treatments is approximately $65,000.
Clients are eligible for Pantry Smiles services based on their income (less than 125 percent of poverty level), general health and dental needs. Registration is through the pantry.
Currently there are only two chairs available for procedures. However, Turnbow said two more treatment rooms will likely be built during the next fiscal year.