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Chicago Dental Society Foundation Clinic reaches milestone

Facility has donated $2M in free dental care to uninsured, homeless

April 11, 2017

By Kimber Solana

Wheaton, Ill. — The Chicago Dental Society Foundation Clinic had treated local uninsured patients for about four years when — at 10 a.m. on March 10 — a patient arrived in need of fillings.
    
After a volunteer dentist provided the service, the clinic's staff recorded the cost of the treatment and realized the clinic reached a milestone — $2 million in free and donated services provided.
    

Community outreach: The Chicago Dental Society Foundation’s new dental clinic serves patients from Cook, Lake and DuPage counties.
"We've been open since 2013, going slowly but surely trying reach that mark," office coordinator Marta Cortez said. "And we finally did it."
    
The clinic reached the goal after treating over 1,650 patients, many of the area's uninsured, homeless and low-income residents.
    
The Chicago Dental Society Foundation opened the clinic in February 2013 to fill a void left when the DuPage Community Clinic closed its dental facility in 2011. The three operatory clinic provides basic dental care to uninsured patients from Cook, Lake and DuPage counties — the same tri-county area served by the Chicago Dental Society — with proof of residency and income below 200 percent of the poverty level.
    
Part of the clinic's success has been its effort in finding and connecting with people who need dental care, even if they can't afford it.
    
Ms. Cortez said the clinic has partnered with several shelters from the three counties, such as women and children's shelters and shelters for victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking. Transportation is often scheduled to and from the clinic and shelters to ensure patients are on time and receive the care.
    
While many of the patients' housing situation can be unstable, dental assistant Melissa Simon said, they encourage and try to schedule for patients to come back every six months.
    
"We want to be a dental home for many of our patients," she said. "For me just seeing the change in the patient. They walk out a different person. Sometimes they're crying, not because their tooth or mouth is still pain, but because they're just happy."
    
Plans for the dental clinic began in March 2011. The Chicago Dental Society took possession of the DuPage Community Clinic's equipment and put it in storage while DuPage Community Clinic's dentist volunteers developed plans to open the new facility.
    
The clinic, which is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, provides dental exams, prophylaxis, intraoral and panoramic X-rays, basic restorations and extractions. In some cases, volunteer oral surgeons and other specialists are called upon to provide more extensive treatment.
    
"Attaining this milestone is the result of a unique collaborative effort which is underwritten by the Chicago Dental Society, dental industry and other donors, as well as support and talent from CDS member dentists, hygienists and dental assistants," said Kristen Weber, Chicago Dental Society Foundation executive director.
    
The clinic's next goal: $3 million in provided dental services.
    
"Why not?" Ms. Cortez said. "We just need the doctors to come in."
    
Over the past four years, over 100 dentists have volunteered at the clinic, but more are needed, said dental assistant Zoe Vainikos.
    
"I know dentists are super busy," she said. "But volunteering at the clinic is very flexible."
    
From coming to volunteer for only a couple of hours or every week to only doing specific treatments, the clinic can accommodate volunteers' needs, said Ms. Cortez, adding they can open the clinic on a Saturday if that works best for a volunteer dentist.
    
"We can guarantee volunteers won't be wasting their time," she said. "We have the patients and the need."
    
For more information on the Chicago Dental Society Foundation Clinic and how to donate or volunteer, visit cds.org or call 1-630-260-8530.