By Lt. John Silveira, AA/PIO
Pelican Bay State Prison
In the most northern part of California, 18 members of the Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) dental staff teamed up with other community professionals June 29 to participate in a free dental clinic, held in the gym of the Crescent City’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
Through a partnership with Caring Hands International, an Oregon-based husband-and-wife team, the church’s orange-carpeted gym was transformed into a white plastic-clad emergency dental clinic, with portable dental chairs and dental units, a full sterilization station, and tables laden with dental instruments and supplies.
Structured on a first-come first-served basis, patients began filtering through registration at 7 a.m. Each patient met one-on-one with a nurse to confirm the patient was safely qualified to undergo dental treatment. Then the patient’s dental needs were triaged and assessed with portable digital x-ray machines.
While waiting for treatment, the patients had the opportunity to sample homemade smoothies and listen to short presentations about healthy lifestyle choices. As the weather improved, a steady stream of people came seeking dental care. By 4:30 p.m., the team of seven dentists, 12 dental assistants, and one hygienist, along with an army of community volunteers, were able to screen 75 people and treat 64. Even though the treatment offered was of a limited nature – fillings, extractions, and gross scalings – patients voiced their gratitude for the free dental services, which they would not have been able to afford otherwise.
Of the 68 volunteers, 21 were current PBSP employees and five were PBSP retirees, with representatives from both healthcare and custody. Their compassion for the needs of others, integrity in their work, and willingness to work cooperatively contributed greatly to the success of this community event.
It was a PBSP retiree who enlisted the support of Crescent Ace, who generously donated the protective plastic flooring, as well as of Safeway and Grocery Outlet, who helped provide ingredients for the sack lunches given to the patients.