The Dental Charity Opportunity You Need to Know About
A small, four-chair dental clinic located in Todd County, South Dakota, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, is making a huge difference in the lives of many dental patients.
The St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic (SFMDC) was established in 2013 to provide dental care to patients that have difficulty finding access to care and to serve the Lakota people.
It’s hard for many of us to imagine having to drive an hour or more to receive dental care. However, that is the reality for patients when there is not a dentist or dental team volunteering at St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic.
An article entitled “A Beacon of Light on the Rosebud Reservation… Opens in a new window to jesuitsmidwest.org website… ” highlights the needs of the Lakota people. It cites an American Dental Association study that showed that 90% of the Lakota people on the Rosebud Indian Reservation have chronic tooth decay or gum disease.
For children, an Indian Health Services (IHS) survey found that preschool-aged Native American children… Opens in a new window to borgenmagazine.com website… are four times more likely to have untreated tooth decay as compared to non-Hispanic white children. The Rosebud Indian Reservation is ranked as one of the poorest counties in the United States.
Poverty and unemployment levels are extremely high. These factors make it difficult to have money for transportation costs to travel to dental appointments.
The dental clinic is operated by Marty Jones, RDH. Marty coordinates all the volunteers, handles referrals to specialty offices (which are sometimes two-plus hours away), serves patients, and supervises all aspects of the dental office.
My Time at St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic
Marty and her team are wonderful. I had the privilege of working at the clinic for two days this month. My tasks included completing COVID-19 screenings, updating health history, confirming appointments, and answering the phone.
I was amazed at the relationships Marty and her team have created with the patients that we saw.
The weather turned cold and windy, I watched Marty hand brand new coats that had been donated to children that were in need and being seen at the clinic that day. They care not only about the patients’ dental needs but their overall well-being.
Every family that I assisted during my visit was very thankful for the care they received and the opportunity to see a dentist.
When I decided to begin steps towards my DAADOM, I knew St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic was where I wanted to complete my volunteer hours. Our dental clinic is located approximately two hours to the east of SFMDC, and we occasionally will have patients that are seeking emergency care travel to see us.
How You Can Help the Clinic
We attempt to work with emergency patients that have traveled so far into our schedule for same-day treatment. My heart goes out to those who are having a toothache and can find no place for treatment. Just stop and think about that for a minute.
The majority of us will not experience that. In order to operate they need dentists and dental teams to volunteer and rely on donations.
If your team has ever considered doing a mission trip, please consider coming to St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic.
They have a guest house available for lodging that allows volunteers to stay for multiple days. Another way that you can assist the dental clinic is to consider making a charitable contribution.
When visiting with Marty, she shared that they have a need for many items including an electric surgical handpiece and updated endodontic supplies. The item that caught my attention as an office manager was the need for an office communication system like walkie-talkies or radios.
Many of us probably use these intraoffice communication tools every day and can’t fathom operating without them. If you are able, please consider making a donation. It would melt my heart if our AADOM tribe was able to help SFDCM meet the need of purchasing radios.
Send your donation to St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic Attn: Marty Jones, RDH PO Box 499 St. Francis, SD 57572. Please make a note that your donation is for radios.
This volunteer experience confirmed to me why I love working in dentistry –the ability to help people in need. With current world events, you’d be surprised how much volunteering to help others in any way can make such a huge difference in your outlook on life.
Meet the Author
CaraHull, MAADOM, and her husband, Dr. Joseph Hull, own a general dental practice in Gregory, SD.
She is a lifetime member of the American Association of Dental Office Management, (AADOM).