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Davis Journal

Donated dentistry program celebrates 10 years of giving patients back their smile

Oct 07, 2022 12:16PM ● By Becky Ginos

Dental instructors Celise Herlin (right) and Ashley Wiser work on a practice manikin in one of the dental rooms at Davis Technical College. Pantry Smiles has been donating dental services for 10 years. Photo by Becky Ginos

KAYSVILLE—A program that has provided more than $1 million in dental services celebrated 10 years last week of helping those who might not otherwise receive the oral care they need. The Pantry Smiles donated dental program is a partnership between Davis Technical College (DTC), Weber State University (WSU), the Bountiful Community Food Pantry and area dentists and hygienists.

“Both Lorna (Koci) and I were on the board of directors for the food pantry,” said Jim Guinn, a dentist who helped start the program. “We saw people with a terrific need come into the food pantry who didn’t have the resources for it (dentistry). We got some money from the Bountiful Food Pantry and some federal and private grants to do this. We never charge money for anything we do.”

It’s for people whose household income is less than 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, he said. “People who don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid are falling through the hole here.”

It’s all volunteer and it’s pretty much stayed that way, Guinn said. “We do all facets of dentistry except implants. Specialists prefer that we refer them to their office. We reimburse the doctor for overhead, salary for assistants and materials. The dentists have been very generous in seeing our patients.”

“Pantry Smiles started out with two dental chairs,” said Cathy Turnbow, Pantry Smiles Clinical Director. “Students didn’t get to practice with only two chairs. From that it became so busy we went to four chairs and now we’ve grown to 10 chairs because we utilize it.”

Not only do patients benefit, it’s been a great learning experience for dental students at DTC. “I call it work based learning,” said Cathy Turnbow, Pantry Smiles Clinical Director. “They only train students on manikins so when they go to an office there’s a learning curve so they’re further behind. This gives them the experience of working on real mouths with real saliva.”

It also helps students with community involvement by giving back, she said. “DTC President (Darin) Brush calls it Community Centric Education. Other technical schools have nice facilities but they don’t do dental work on a regular basis.”

WSU hygienists come twice a month, said Turnbow. “It gives the students a chance to learn about working with a hygienist. The hygienists love working with Pantry Smiles. At school they have to get their own patients. When they come here there are patients waiting.”

Celise Herlin graduated from the dental assistant program at DTC two years ago and now she is a full-time instructor. “It’s so nice,” said Herlin. “They’ve been using a manikin but it’s helpful to practice their skills on real patients. Our patients are so patient with them. It’s a win, win for everyone. The dental assistants need practice and the patients need dental work.”

Patients come in for an initial treatment plan, she said. “We get to know them and find out their back story. I have a lot of empathy for them. We get patients from all over. Meeting people from everywhere is pretty fun.”

The best part of Pantry Smiles is when patients cry out with joy, said Herlin. “We’ve given them their smile back.” λ