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After a two-month delay resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, 11 individuals had their smiles restored safely at a small, volunteer-run event held Sept. 26 at the Children’s Dental Health Clinic in Long Beach.
The CDA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the California Dental Association, organized the event specifically to serve patients who attended the Foundation’s CDA Cares clinic in fall 2019 and had teeth extracted due to damage, severe decay or other need.
Those patients would have been fitted for and received partial or complete dentures at the next CDA Cares, which was set to take place July 17-18 in Long Beach, but the Foundation postponed that event to comply with state and federal public health guidance on reducing spread of the coronavirus.
All the patients had been fully or partially edentulous for almost exactly a year, but at the small clinic last Saturday, eight patients received full dentures and three received upper dentures.
“In the COVID-19 environment, although we aren’t yet able to host a large-scale event like CDA Cares, which provides dental treatment to approximately 1,900 people at every event, the Foundation believed it was important to honor its commitment to patients who were made edentulous at CDA Cares San Bernardino,” said Gary Glasband, DDS, who chaired the canceled CDA Cares clinic in July and has remained committed to the CDA Cares mission.
“Following stringent infection-control protocols and with the help of a dedicated team of volunteer dentists, laboratory technicians, registered dental assistants and registered dental hygienists, we did just that.”
Because of the small number of patients served, organizers were able to stagger the appointment times to maintain social distancing so that the event operated as if it was happening in a dental-office setting versus a clinic.
Just as patients and dental staff are screened for COVID-19 through temperature checks in the dental office today, both patients and volunteers had their temperatures taken prior to entering the facility. Volunteers also screened patients through a series of questions over the phone before the event and again the day of the event.
Volunteers wore additional personal protective equipment to comply with state guidelines, and patients wore masks at all times except when the masks needed to be removed for denture fitting. Additionally, because all the procedures were related to denture fitting, the risk of aerosol generation ― which can increase the risk of virus transmission ― was extremely low.
Nineteen procedures valued at $38,000 were performed at no cost to patients on Saturday.
"My staff and I remarked on how helping these patients really left an imprint on all of our hearts,” said John Blake, DDS, executive director of the Children’s Dental Health Clinic, where the event was held. “What a joy to see their new smiles."
CDA and the Foundation thank Children’s Dental Health Clinic for generously opening its offices to volunteers and patients for the event, which was made possible through a CVS-Aetna grant.
In the continued effort to mitigate the risk of coronavirus exposure, the Foundation is examining alternatives to the large-scale CDA Cares events for 2021. Helping a smaller number of individuals through events like last Saturday’s small clinic is just one option under consideration. The Foundation will share details about those opportunities as they develop.
For now, the Foundation encourages individuals to not wait to obtain dental care, particularly if they have urgent dental needs such as pain or infection. Delaying critical dental or medical care could lead to serious consequences.
Individuals can locate a dental care provider by doing one of the following: