Free Mobile Dental Clinic in Key Center


Ted Olinger

Volunteer dentists and hygienists served 30 patients during a free dental clinic July 23. Photo: Ted Olinger, KP News

A rolling dental lab and team of volunteer dentists treated anyone with dental needs free of charge in the parking lot of the Key Center library and medical building on Saturday, July 23.

Pacific Dental Services Foundation coordinated with Smile Generation and local dentists to provide the free services.

“The Key Free Clinic has a lot of people that need dental services, so we partnered with Pacific Dental to bring those services to the community,” said Executive Director Anne Nesbit. The clinic has offered some free dental services in the recent past, but this is the first time partnering with Pacific Dental and Smile Generation. “This is larger scale, including follow-up,” said Nesbit. “I get the patients, but this organization does everything else. That is huge because that just doesn't exist anywhere.

“All in all, we're going to see over 30 people today,” she said.

The foundation mobile lab is based in Irvine, California, but travels the country to provide a facility to offer treatments including X-rays, extractions, cleanings, crowns and fillings. Dr. Jessica Ahn of Olympic Modern Dentistry in Gig Harbor will follow-up with local patients requiring more than a single visit.

The Key Free Clinic is a nonprofit organization that works out of the Key Center medical building every Thursday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. “Our mission is to provide medical services for people who can't reach services or don't have the funds to pay for them,” said Nesbit. The clinic’s work is paid for by grants and donations.

Dr. Brian Polillo of Lynwood Crossroads Modern Dentistry and Orthodontics volunteered his services for the day. “I've had several patients whose teeth have been hurting them for a while and they're not able to get care any place else, so I've been taking some of those out.” This was Polillo’s seventh time serving with the mobile lab in Washington and Oregon. “This van has the same things our offices have. We can take digital images and mill out a crown for you in one appointment. It's a service we can provide for people they really can't get anywhere else,” he said.

“It's always hard trying to organize an event like this, which is why the Pacific Dental Services Foundation getting people to help out is so beneficial,” Polillo said. “I mean, I'm just a doctor. I just know how to fix teeth; I don't know how to get them here. That's what they're here for,” he said.

“It just makes you feel really good to be able to serve people in the community that you have your offices in, too,” said Laurie Knaup, the regional support manager for Washington Dental Corp. Knaup was in charge of logistical and administrative support in partnership with Pacific Dental. “It’s the first time with this particular clinic, so we'll see what happens, but we'd love to come back and continue to serve the community. We're just trying to get people out of pain,” she said.

Patrick Supplee, who just moved to Longbranch four months ago, works in dental support for Smile Generation. “Each one of these doctors reaches out to groups in their own community to do pro bono dentistry. I work to support these doctors from an operation standpoint. I'm very passionate about it. It's all about taking care of people,” he said.

Tacoma resident June Loftus brought a friend on a limited income to the clinic. “My daughter, who lives on Herron Island, read on Facebook that something was going to be here today,” she said. “We were just thrilled. We only found out two or three days ago that they had time to see him.” Loftus said her friend, who declined to be interviewed, is missing teeth and needs fillings and cleaning. “I just kind of help him, he helps me. We're old people; we have to stick together,” she said.

“We're not turning anybody away,” Nesbit said. “If they say they need help, we're going to help them. We've had people that have been walking around with abscesses for six months. If they're having trouble paying for their lights or their food, they're not going to go see a dentist.”

The mobile lab will be returning, Nesbit said. “The dream would be quarterly, but it sounds like twice a year is more realistic.”