CDA Cares serves thousands in San Jose

Preliminary numbers indicate 2,202 patients received free oral health care at the CDA Cares San Jose dental clinic over the weekend.

Hosted by the CDA Foundation and CDA, the May 18-19 dental clinic provided more than $1.6 million in oral health care services to the underserved. The San Jose clinic, which was held at the San Jose Convention Center, was the third CDA Cares event — the first two were held in Modesto and Sacramento in 2012.

The three clinics combined have now provided $4.4 million in care to 5,878 patients.

“The amount of care we were able to provide in San Jose is a true testament to the hard work of all of our volunteers and sponsors,” said CDA Cares San Jose Chair Ken Wallis, DDS. “This is what dentistry is all about – helping people in need.”

Nearly 1,600 volunteers, including 800 dentists and dental and health professionals, teamed up to provide more than 11,000 procedures, including cleanings, fillings and extractions for patients at the two-day clinic. Patients also received oral health education and some were fitted with dentures and partial dentures, often a life-changing event, allowing them to find employment and restore self-esteem.

One of those patients was Anita, who attended both the CDA Cares clinics in Modesto and Sacramento last year. She showed up to the San Jose Convention Center to finalize her treatment on May 18. She received a full-mouth extraction at the Sacramento clinic and had a new set of dentures made for her in San Jose after spending several months healing and preventing any infections in her mouth.

“You can’t smile if you have bad teeth, so this is awesome. If it wasn’t for you guys, I wouldn’t have any teeth,” Anita said after her dentures were fitted. “I feel real good, my anxiety is all pumped up; I’m all excited. I’m just grateful that I was able to come.”

More than 75 sponsors contributed to the clinic, including large supply donations/funding from Benco Dental, Carestream Dental, El Camino Hospital, Santa Clara County, Straine Consulting and Kaiser Permanente.

“Without the help of companies like these and the long list of other sponsors and individual donors, we wouldn’t be able to put on these clinics and help so many underserved people,” said Don Rollofson, DMD, CDA Foundation chair. “CDA Cares is a true team effort and San Jose was a prime example of that.”

The CDA Foundation and CDA developed CDA Cares to provide free dental services and oral health education to Californians who experience barriers to care and to raise awareness with the public and policymakers about the importance of good oral health and the need for a state dental director and state oral health infrastructure to support oral health.

State budget cuts eliminated virtually all adult Denti-Cal benefits in 2009, leaving more than 3 million poor, disabled and elderly Californians scrambling to find a way to receive oral health services.

“For most of these folks, their options are very limited because the state’s safety net has been eliminated for adults,” Wallis said. “The work that is done at CDA Cares is just a temporary fix – it’s not a system of care -- and we’re counting on elected officials to understand that we need help.”

As with last year’s CDA Cares events in Modesto and Sacramento, the San Jose event provided an opportunity for key policymakers to see firsthand the extent of the need to rebuild the public oral health infrastructure in California. In all, 12 state and local elected or appointed officials, along with a number of key staff members from legislative offices, toured the event over the course of the weekend. Among them was Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), chair of the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, which recently heard testimony from CDA leadership and others about the importance of restoring Medi-Cal adult dental benefits.  

“I was really impressed by the tour of the CDA Foundation’s free dental clinic event,” Monning said afterward. “I want to thank the dentists, volunteers, and CDA for providing much-needed dental services to the community.”

The clinical philosophy of CDA Cares is to establish individual treatment plans with the goal of relieving pain and infection. Another key goal of CDA Cares is to shine a spotlight on the pro bono work of dentists. California dentists provide free oral health care services worth an estimated $388 million each year ($15,668 per dentist).

The CDA Foundation is planning other CDA Cares events throughout California.  The next clinic will be held in San Diego on Dec. 7-8.

For more information on the clinics and how to volunteer, visit cdafoundation.org/cdacares.