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Community clinic volunteers treat adults in need of care

Wheaton, Ill.—Treating 48 uninsured adults—most of whom needed urgent dental care—the DuPage Community Clinic hosted its third annual "Save Your Smile" day April 28.

"There aren't a lot of programs out there that reach out to adults," said Patricia Ciebien, clinic director. "We had six volunteer dentists who treated patients from 19 through 74 years of age. The need out there is amazing."

The clinic's board of directors is considering holding special access days twice a year since they've been so successful, she added. They also held a Give Kids A Smile event in June that focused on getting children ready for the fall school year.

The Save Your Smile day is just a small part of the privately funded clinic's mission, said Ms. Ciebien. Its 37 volunteer dentists and eight volunteer dental hygienists provide care and holistic services to patients year round.

"It takes a special kind of dentist to 'cook in someone else's kitchen,' " she said. "Our volunteers usually donate a half-day a month. They are doing on their day off what they could be getting paid to do. They are amazing, and they provide our patients with the best of care and personal attention."

Dr. Kevin King of Palos Heights, Ill., is one of the clinic's pro bono stalwarts. He has also volunteered as director of a volunteer program at the University of Illinois pediatric ward and with youth groups and at a homeless shelter on the west side of Chicago.

"In the years that I have volunteered at the DuPage Community Clinic, I have watched the program grow and mature," said Dr. King. "Volunteering helps us connect with our humanity and it in turn offers us the opportunity to be of service to those in need. Often when we volunteer in a program it is hard to see the overall results of our contributions. This is where professional volunteering in this type of clinic is different. There is an immediate result. You can directly see the effects of the care you provide. It allows you to relieve the pain and suffering that these patients are experiencing. Additionally it helps us to educate these patients by offering preventive care to ensure that they do not fall into the same situation again."

Clinic patients, Ms. Ciebien added, represent many cultures and come from 72 different countries.

"It's important for us to offer something beyond dental treatment—oral health education, comfort and a sense of self," said Ms. Ciebien. "We give our patients individual attention and some of them are not used to it."

Patients can also receive resource guides to help families find out what other services are available to them, from medical care and food stamps to clothing and other services, she adds.

"We try to take any embarrassment away from them—not just dental pain. It takes time, effort and planning, but it's worth it, knowing you're making a difference."