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GKAS/NASCAR event showcases new Phoenix clinic

Arizona dentists speed up dental care for underserved


Triage: Destiny Hills, age 9, and Dr. Kim Gise, a GKAS volunteer from the Maricopa County health department, share a big smile after a triage exam at the GKAS/ NASCAR dental care event in Phoenix Nov. 7.

Grand opening: Volunteers and dignitaries from Arizona gather for a brief “floss cutting” ceremony at the Arizona community Dental Clinic Nov. 7 during a Give Kids A Smile/NASCAR education and treatment event.
Phoenix—The Give Kids A Smile/NASCAR education and treatment event Nov. 7 at the new Arizona Community Dental Clinic—Dental Urgent Care Clinic gave Arizona dentists a chance to showcase their full throttle dedication to providing dental care to the growing number of Phoenix citizens in need.

Although the new clinic was launched primarily to serve adults who fall through the cracks and need dental care, kids were on the fast track for the GKAS/NASCAR event.

More than 55 volunteers, including 11 dentists, provided 204 procedures—from screenings, cleanings and sealants to restorations, root canals and extractions—to 25 children who had extensive dental care needs. The value of care donated was nearly $18,000. Kids also received goodie bags, dental health education and a chance to check out NASCAR star and GKAS ambassador Greg Biffle's No. 16 3M Ford Fusion show car parked in front of the clinic and interact with 3M Racing mascot Deebo, the NBA Phoenix Suns mascot Gorilla, the NHL Phoenix Coyotes mascot Howler and the tooth fairy during the event.

Local sponsors for the event included SmartPractice, Phoenix Rotary 100, United Concordia Companies, Executive Council Charities and Phoenix Coyotes Charities.

"SmartPractice believes that all children should have the opportunity for quality oral health care which translates into an opportunity to be successful and healthy in life," Dan Nahom, executive vice president and CFO. "The ADA and various state associations have been instrumental in giving thousands of kids the opportunity to see the dentist and receive quality care. Since 2006 we've helped the Arizona Give Kids A Smile program by raising $144,000 for the Arizona Dental Association Foundation with our SmartScramble golf tournament."

Merry Peralta was thankful that she was able to bring her daughter Alessandra, age 8 and her son Miller, age 5, to the Arizona Community Dental Clinic for treatment.

"My family is very grateful for the GKAS event," Ms. Peralta said. "We currently do not have dental insurance and we were quoted $5,200 for our children's dental work to be completed. Alessandra received dental work on eight teeth and Miller, received dental work on four teeth. Without this program, my husband and I would have had to spread out their treatments over the span of a couple years and they would be at higher risk for developing infections."

Ms. Peralta said she intends to give back to the community because she was so impressed with how the program reached out to help her family.

"I plan on volunteering my time in the future at a GKAS event," she said. "This program has been a true blessing."

Opening the clinic is the first part of the Arizona Dental Foundation's four-phase project to provide a permanent dental home for a growing need for adult and emergency dental care in the state in the wake of budget cuts that eliminated adult emergency dental services from Medicaid patients.


Fast friends: Dr. Dan Kang and 5-year-old Miller Peralta take some time to get acquainted before Miller has dental treatment at the GKAS/NASCAR event at the Arizona Community Dental Clinic in Phoenix.
"Emergency room visits for oral health problems have increased dramatically because of a perfect storm of the economic downturn in Arizona, the freeze of Medicaid coverage for adults and the elimination of adult emergency dental benefits," said Dr. Michael Smith, president of the ADF and a private practice dentist in Phoenix. "Our goal is to respond to the immediate oral health needs of seniors, special needs patients and the working poor by opening the emergency clinic two days a week."

The 8,205-square-foot clinic, purchased 15 years ago by the Arizona Dental Association and Delta Dental of Arizona, housed the Rio Salado Community College dental hygiene school, which recently relocated to Tempe, Ariz.

"We have this terrific facility that can be expanded to a 16-chair clinic with radiology and sterilization areas, four oral surgery suites and dental laboratory services. We plan to expand it in four phases to make sure it's a sustainable solution," said Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith hosted a brief "floss cutting" ceremony during the GKAS/NASCAR event to mark the grand opening of the clinic and to thank volunteers, sponsors and others in attendance.

Arizona dentists said the GKAS/NASCAR event was an excellent opportunity to host a grand opening of the clinic as well as celebrate their long-time participation in Give Kids A Smile events.

Dr. Charlie Clark, a pediatric dentist in the Phoenix metro area and a member of the Arizona Dental Foundation board, provided care to several youngsters during the event. A seasoned volunteer who has traveled worldwide to serve those in need, Dr. Clark said it's just as important for dental professionals to help those in their own community and forge working relationships with other partners.

"I believe the vast majority of dentists want to help. However, our current model offers few opportunities for patients with limited resources to find quality, affordable dental care," said Dr. Clark. "This is what encouraged the Arizona Dental Foundation to use its resources through organized dentistry to develop a community clinic. Our model combines volunteer AzDA dentists with residents from the Banner Health Oral Surgery Program and in the future dental students from both A. T. Still ASDOH and Midwestern University. This model provides a truly low-cost option utilizing a sliding fee scale based upon a patient's ability to pay, up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level."

Dr. Clark said that another important part of the ADF vision is to educate the public not only about the importance of prevention, but also on the value and importance of regular dental care.

He is an active volunteer for local GKAS events, Special Olympics Special Smiles screenings and treatment, the Arizona Mission of Mercy and the Community Dental Clinic. He also serves in the leadership of the Central Arizona Dental Society and the CADS New Dentist Committee; the Arizona Academy of Pediatric Dentistry; AzDA; and the ADF.

"To me, it's simple," Dr. Clark added. "We have an obligation to care for not just the patients that walk through our door but to the general public and our communities at large. I volunteer because it gives me the opportunity to fulfill in small part this obligation and also so that I can interact with other motivated colleagues in the hopes of creating an even better model for the future."

In the past 10 years, the Arizona Dental Foundation has provided more than $4 million in free restorative care to some 12,000 Title I schoolchildren statewide.

Arizona dentists have also reached out through a variety of other charitable dental programs—an Arizona Mission of Mercy; care for seniors and special needs patients through the state's Donated Dental Services program, in cooperation with Dental Lifeline Network; Special Olympics Special Smiles; the Arizona American Indian Oral Health Initiative; and the Access to Oral Health Initiative, which provided intensive hands-on training for more than 100 dentists to enable them to better care for developmentally disabled children and adults.

The Phoenix dental treatment event was held in conjunction with the 11th GKAS/NASCAR track event of 2013 Nov. 9 and 10 at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. Mr. Biffle and GKAS sponsors—the ADA, ADA Foundation, Henry Schein Cares, CareCredit and 3M ESPE Dental—shared important oral health messages nationwide at NASCAR tracks this season, offering fun family activities and education about healthy dental habits at the 3M display in the track midway areas for some 600,000 fans between February and November.