Dentists can change lives at CDA Cares San Diego

Peter Soderstrom, DDS, has volunteered at all three of the CDA Cares programs to date, and while there are many memorable patients, there is one who sticks out the most in his mind.

Soderstrom came across a man in his early 20s who had been out of work for more than six months. The man had all of his teeth extracted and said his appearance was impacting his ability to find a job, as well as his self-esteem. Soderstrom, who has served as the lead of the lab area in CDA Cares Modesto, Sacramento and San Jose, helped the man get new dentures through the program.

A year after receiving his dentures, the patient visited Soderstrom’s practice for an adjustment.

“He told me that two weeks after he received his dentures at CDA Cares, he got a job,” Soderstrom said.

These are the type of life-changing moments that happen at every CDA Cares event, and it wouldn’t be possible without the help of a multitude of volunteers. Volunteer dentists, including oral surgeons, lab technicians, dental hygienists and assistants, and other team members are all important pieces that make CDA Cares clinics run smoothly.

Soderstrom heads up the lab area, where about 20 lab technicians work with dentists and general volunteers to provide CDA Cares patients with stayplates and dentures (a limited number of dentures are available at each clinic. The main services provided are cleanings, fillings and extractions). Soderstrom is ready to help lead the lab area in San Diego when CDA Cares visits the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Dec. 7-8.

CDA Cares San Diego
Register today for you and your staff

When: Dec. 7-8 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar

Who: Dentists, dental professionals and staff members (assistants, hygienists and front office staff). Dentists are needed in areas throughout the clinic, including restorative, numbing, pediatric, triage and routing.

How: Sign up for a day of volunteering. You can choose your job and day by registering at cdafoundation.org/cdacares.

The goal of CDA Cares is to relieve pain and infection and educate the public and policymakers about the importance of good oral health and the need for an adequately funded dental safety net, including a state dental director, who can develop programs to improve the oral health of Californians. To date, with the help of 4,559 volunteers, CDA Cares and its volunteers has provided $4.4 million in care to 5,878 patients.

Sometimes entire families come and often sleep outside overnight to get into the event. Santos Cortez, DDS, volunteered as the lead of the pediatric area of the Modesto CDA Cares program.

One particular family stuck out in his mind.

“There was a single mother who came in with three children and I remember how pleased she was that we were able to not only see her 1-year-old and provide a visual exam, but that we could also provide a topical fluoride varnish and detailed oral health education,” Cortez said.

Cortez was able to go over best oral hygiene practices and the ill effects of prolonged bottle-feeding with the mother.

“She was very grateful that I was able to educate her on those things. This is the type of reward you get for spending time helping people in need,” Cortez said. “There are multiple levels of satisfaction volunteers get from participating.”

To help provide oral health care services to the large number of expected patients in San Diego, the CDA Foundation is currently seeking dental and health volunteers to sign up for an entire day, rather than a shorter shift. Additionally, community volunteers are needed to assist with registration, clinic setup, data entry, escorting patients, interpreting and much more.

“It takes a lot of teamwork from not only our dental supply colleagues, but also a ton of local volunteers to make these programs run smoothly,” said Russ Webb, DDS, past chair of CDA Cares Sacramento. “We just can’t do it without their support. It takes two to three general volunteers to support one dental volunteer to move patients through the clinic — it’s a tremendous effort.”

Webb, an oral surgeon himself, said CDA Cares San Diego will need a lot of volunteer oral surgeons.

“Oral surgery is one of the most important components of CDA Cares because many of these patients need to have extractions done to get them out of pain,” Webb said. “I encourage my fellow oral surgeons to come down and give back to the profession.”

A CDA survey several years ago determined that dentists already provide more than $15,000 in pro bono work every year in their practices. CDA Cares events allow dentists to volunteer outside of their offices, in their communities, with well-designed portable operatories and high-quality equipment and supplies.

Dentists agree that CDA Cares makes it simple for volunteers to donate their time.

“Really, the volunteer dentists just need to show up and give back to the community, there is no setup or appointments to worry about,” Soderstrom said. “It’s all taken care of for you.”

Cortez said the way CDA Cares is put together makes it fun for the volunteers.

“The equipment is all set up, the leads are there, all you have to do is meet the families in need and explain what work they need to get done. It allows the dentists to do their best work and have fun without having to worry about schedules, staffing and supplies,” Cortez said.

Don Rollofson, DMD, chair of the CDA Foundation, says CDA Cares is a chance to shine a spotlight on dentists and the good deeds they do.

“CDA Cares exemplifies the best of our profession in action. Together, with the goal of relieving pain and infection, we’re impacting lives, restoring dignity, creating smiles and educating the public, media and policymakers about the importance good oral health and the unique complexities of providing dental care,” Rollofson said. “Bring your staff and sign up for a day of volunteering — you won’t regret it.”

Carol Summerhays, DDS, is bringing her entire staff to volunteer in San Diego — from her hygienists to her assistants to her front office.

“I think it brings an office closer together to be involved in CDA Cares. Everyone gets a chance to experience the feeling of giving back; it’s a win for everybody,” Summerhays said.

For more information on volunteering, labor laws related to volunteering and to register at CDA Cares San Diego, visit cdafoundation.org/cdacares.

Take a look at this video from CDA Cares Modesto.