On August 14th, 2011, I spent my Sunday morning and afternoon donating my dental services at an outreach clinic for underprivileged families in San Bernardino. In total I saw 18 patients. As a dentist, I always try and salvage a patient’s teeth. So it pains me to see that the majority of my patients seen on that day, needed extractions. Some of these teeth were so badly damaged and infested with infection that there was no chance of saving them. There was one patient in particular that I remember. She had an upper left wisdom tooth that was fractured and abscessed. The tooth was diagnosed for a surgical extraction -preferable by an oral surgeon specialist. None of the other doctors at the free clinic felt they had the experience or the tools to perform the surgery. I could see that the patient was in terrible pain and was afraid she would not be seen. I did not want to see the patient go home in discomfort, so I stepped in to perform the surgery. The majority of the patients who need surgical wisdom teeth extractions in my practice are referred to our oral surgeon in order to facilitate treatment. However because of my extensive past experience in oral surgery, I was still able to extract the tooth in less than 20 minutes, even though the free clinic was not properly equipped to manage these types of surgeries.
I wonder sometimes, what would happen to these patients were I not present at these clinics. It seems that at every free clinic that I volunteer for, not only am I always the youngest doctor there, but I’m always taking on the more complicated cases and taking care of the most number of patients. However, I am still very thankful that there are other doctors who volunteer their time. Without the extra help, it would not be possible for these free clinics to exist. I regret that I have not been able to donate my services as often this past year. My baby girl, Hanna was born with a severe heart defect last year and twice she would not have made it, if it were not for the modern day advances in infant heart surgery. Needless to say, I have spent many days and nights at the hospital and at home cherishing every moment I have with her. However, I feel that my sick daughter is still not an excuse for not focusing some of my time towards charity.
In summary, the condition of the mouths that I saw that day at the San Bernardino Outreach Clinic were a lot worse than the previous times that I have volunteered. In addition it was odd that the number of adult patients far exceeded the number of children patients. And this is comparing patients seen over the 12 years that I have volunteered my dental services. I suspect, that the deteriorating economy played a large factor in this phenomenon. Regardless, it always warms my heart, when I can see the thanks in the smiles and eyes of the many patients that I helped that day. Giving back to the community always feels right especially during these times of economic instability. It is also during these times that I truly feel fortunate to have a thriving practice with patients who take pride in maintaining their oral health.