Nearly 100 people received free dental care at a new clinic in Jenkins earlier this week.
The SmileFaith Foundation, a Florida non-profit organization, has partnered with God’s Love From a Diaper Bag to provide free dental cleanings, fillings and extractions to eastern Kentucky residents without dental insurance.
Bessie McPeek, founder of God’s Love From a Diaper Bag, has provided diapers and other items to mothers needing assistance for more than 11 years. She and her husband, Lester, provide Christmas presents for 800 families each December. They also give away school supplies in August.
McPeek said when she helps people she asks them what their biggest need is and the most common answer is free dental treatments.
The SmileFaith Community Dental Clinic, located at 9757 Highway 805, is open from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. now until Sept. 27. Patients are seen on a first come, first serve basis.
Fifty patients were seen on Monday, which was the grand opening of the dental clinic. Sixty received dental work on Tuesday. McPeek said people began arriving at the clinic at 6 a.m. both days.
“We’ve been swamped,” said McPeek. “We’ve had a lot who couldn’t afford to go to a dentist.”
Dr. Michael P. O’Carroll, executive director of SmileFaith Foundation, said 50 percent of patients seen on Monday had dental pain and needed extractions.
To treat as many people as possible, the dental team dealt with one issue at a time. If patients required additional fillings or extractions, O’Carroll said they could come back the next day for more dental work.
While waiting to see a dentist, patients can pick out a free pair of reading glasses.
Dental teams take turns providing care at the clinic. A dental team consists of a head dentist, an assistant and a hygienist. Volunteers sterilize equipment as well as register and greet patients.
Beginning in January, a dentist will be available at the Jenkins clinic twice a month. O’Carroll said eventually the non-profit organization will provide a dentist onsite who will see patients on a regular basis.
A long-term goal is to have a dental lab for dentures and partials.
The SmileFaith Foundation recently renovated space inside the building occupied by God’s Love From a Diaper Bag to create exam rooms and a waiting area.
Besides locations in Florida, Jenkins is the first SmileFaith Foundation full dental clinic in the United States. The non-profit organization has also provided dental care in Peru, Guatemala and South Africa.
“We were looking for a place in this area that was in need,” said O’Carroll.