An exhibition center transformed into a giant dental clinic

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By Linn Ann Huntington Hays Daily News

On Thursday, March 24, a tractor-trailer rig will travel to the Ellis County Fairgrounds. Volunteers will begin unloading 45 dental chairs and other equipment into the Schenk and Unrein buildings. And, before long, the two buildings will be transformed into two giant dental practices.

The Kansas Mission of Mercy (KMOM), a free dental clinic hosted annually by the Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation, will be ready to operate.

The clinic will be offering free dental services for children and adults on Friday and Saturday March 25 and 26. Doors will open at 5:30 a.m. both days.

There are no eligibility, income or residency requirements. Services will include free cleanings, fillings and extractions. No prosthetic work will be done.

With the exception of children, patients will be seen on a first-come, first-served basis. Parents can schedule specific appointments for their children on www. ksdentalfoundation.org or with their child’s school nurse, said Katie Dozweiler, media coordinator for the steering committee at Hays.

According to an information leaflet, “Breakfast and lunch will be provided free of charge, but (patients should) bring snacks and water. Hundreds of patients will be treated every day, so be prepared to wait several hours.

This will be the 21st KMOM organized in Kansas, but the first in Hays. Janet Kuhn, sales manager at the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau, said organizers expect around 750 patients to be treated over the two days.

As of last week, 73 dentists had signed up to volunteer for at least part of the clinic. One of the Hays dentists, who will be volunteering both days, is Dr. Kurt Martin.

Martin, an oral surgeon, established his practice, Canterbury Oral Maxillofacial Surgery at 2901 Canterbury, in July 1999 after completing his dental training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Most of the time, Martin is busy removing wisdom teeth or fixing broken jawbones, he said. This will be his 11th KMOM. Based on this previous experience, Martin anticipates that most of his work at the free clinic will involve untreated tooth decay, chronic infections and periodontal disease, which lead to bone loss around a tooth.

During the last KMOM, he pulled out 80 to 100 teeth in one day. “Some people will need all of their remaining teeth,” he said.

Some of the volunteer dentists will be assigned to “triage” — they will assess which patients have the most urgent needs and prioritize treatment accordingly, Martin said.

“There’s a need out there for charitable dental services,” he said, adding that, based on research he’s seen, only about 50% of Americans go to the dentist.

Dr. Christy Thomas, another Hays dentist who volunteers on both days, echoed Martin.

Thomas has been practicing general dentistry at Hays for four years. His practice, First Care Clinic at 105 W. 13th St., sees a number of patients who don’t have insurance.

Based on her own practice, she said, “I saw the need for dental care in the state. So many people don’t have insurance. People will come from all over (for this event). Some people will stay in hotels. They rely on this event (free, once a year) for their dental care. »

Thomas earned his undergraduate degree from Kansas State University and then continued his dental education at the Missouri School of Dentistry in Kirksville, Mo. This will be his first KMOM as a practicing dentist. But she has participated six times in the past as a general volunteer. She said she decided when she was 16 or 17 that she wanted to be a dentist and then started volunteering.

“A lot of people who come (to KMOM) are suffering. They may have an infection, they may need tooth extractions, they may need fillings for deep decay. She added that the inflammation and swelling are often visible as soon as a patient opens their mouth.

Thomas said two of the dental assistants in his practice also volunteer for KMOM. Martin brings three nurses and a pre-dental student intern from his practice.

He also brings three of his own adjustable dental chairs — they’re much easier on his back, he said — his own drills, instruments, and the lights that dentists strap on their heads. “I want to make sure I have everything I need,” he said.

Martin is also responsible for motivating at least one other young dentist in the area to enroll in KMOM.

Dr. Ross Kee, who practices at LaCrosse Family Dentistry, grew up in Plainville and Beloit, but has been practicing general dentistry in LaCrosse since September 2020. He completed his dental degree at the University of Missouri in Kansas City in 2016.

For four summers, before and during dental school, Kee worked with Martin as a surgical assistant.

This is his first KMOM. “My main motivation was Dr. Martin. He invited me to work side by side with him at the clinic. . . He invited me to work on one of his chairs. I thought working alongside him was a great opportunity to potentially learn new techniques.

“I had planned to register for a day. That was the motivation to sign up for the second half day,” Kee said.

“I felt obligated as a professional in the field to provide services to those who cannot come to the dentist on a regular basis and as a way of giving thanks to the community,” Kee said.

Martin echoed his protege’s sentiments. “I think as a professional dentist it is my duty to help meet that need and as a Christian I am called to help others.”

He also praised his team for signing up to help, adding that KMOM needs more dental assistants to volunteer.

Kuhn of the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau said organizers expect at least 500 people to volunteer, including dental professionals. All volunteers will receive a free lunch and dinner. Volunteers can still register at www.ksdentalfoundation. org.

Martin praised the Hays community for “a tremendous job in meeting the needs of this clinic with donations, interest and a willingness to help”.

Niki Sadler of the Kansas Dental Foundation said support for KMOM comes entirely from donations and grants; it uses no state or federal funding. The Schmidt Foundation, Delta Dental of Kansas and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of Kansas are the main funders of the project, she said.

“This project will cost nearly $160,000, but will leave about $750,000 in dental work donated in return,” Sadler added.

Marin, who co-chairs the Hays Steering Committee, singled out Sadler, Kuhn, Dorzweiller and Melissa Dixon, executive director of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce, for particular praise.

“They did the heavy lifting to organize this. As dentists, we just show up and do our job. Food planning is the big part.

According to the information leaflet, patients should continue to take their prescription medications as directed and bring them with them, so as not to miss a dose. Patients should also bring a list of current medications, allergies and medical conditions.

Martin emphasized, “If people need dental care, they should come to this event.” Nex-Tech provides a free phone, and patients will be given the number to call in case they need follow-up care, Martin said.

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