A Reason to Smile: National Program Brings Needed Dental Care to Southeastern Utah

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Pictured: Dr. Paul B. Martinez sees one of the 30 patients Monday that qualified for the outreach program, which gives locals in need of dentures the opportunity to receive the needed care for free.

A total of 30 patients walked in and out of Dr. Paul B. Martinez’s office located on 100 East Monday and Tuesday feeling like new people.

The reason? Dr. Martinez was joined for the two days with a number of other professionals from the nation who came together to offer dentures to those in need in Carbon, Emery and Grand counties.

The service-filled days were part of an outreach program put on by the Academy of Prosthodontics, the oldest organization dedicated to the craft of replacing teeth in the country. The outreach program started nearly 25 years ago and was originally started to bring services to Native American communities.

“Over the years we have had over 150 volunteers help us with these different projects,” Dr. Edward Plekavich, one of the prosthodontics in attendance, said.

After a recommendation from Carbon County’s own Dr. Paul B. Martinez, the outreach program explored the possibility of expanding their help to rural communities and, after a pilot program in Moab, the opportunity was extended to Southeastern Utah.

Martinez and Plekavich were also joined by Dr. Geoff Thompson and Dr. Jim DeBoer during the two-day program as well as local volunteers Justin Hanson from Denture Express and Steve Grass from Express Dental. Patients were recommended by Karen Dolan, executive director of Four Corners Community Behavioral Health.

The opportunity gave needy patients in the three counties a chance to receive prosthodontic care they otherwise would have gone without. One of the members in attendance stated from Martinez’s chair that Monday’s visit was his first time at the dentist in 10 years.

The time, however, may be just as meaningful for the professionals as for the patients.

“Getting a hug from a patient is worth a thousand dollars,” said Plekavich, who traveled from Virginia to give his time to the program.

Plekavich continued, speaking fondly of friends made from various trips, including a woman from the Shoshone Native American tribe and a man who returned the next day to report that, after receiving his dentures, he had had the best supper in five years.

“I can’t think of a year when there wasn’t something fun like that,” said Plekavich.

Martinez carries similar sentiments, hoping that the program can grow and evolve to help even more people with such needs.

“People in our country and community need help and we as clinicians are obligated to help those individuals that can’t help themselves,” Martinez said. “All people need is just a little help.”

If other professionals in the field, community and state leaders or members of the community are interested in learning more about the program or how to become involved, they may contact the Family Dental Center at 435-637-4545 located at 95 South 100 East in Price.

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