By Abby Jaskolski
Dental care is a necessity that many fail to appreciate until it’s no longer an option. Gerry Barker, a retired dental professor and former board member for The Grooming Project, knew first-hand how much the students’ health was suffering after a lifetime of little to no access to dental care.
The majority of students at The Grooming Project have never been able to cover the out-of-pocket expense that comes with dental cleanings and procedures and have never held employment that offers benefits like dental insurance. Students were regularly missing school because of infections that started in their teeth. Without treatment, tooth infections often spread to the face, neck, or even more distant locations. In some cases, infections become systemic, affecting multiple tissues and systems throughout the body. Unlike many other health conditions, dental ailments are often not visible to observers, causing many to suffer in silence. Dental pain can quickly become unbearable, making it impossible for a person to focus on their responsibilities and lead a normal life.
In 2018, Dr. Barker reached out to colleagues Dr. Don Keith, his wife Linda, and Dr. Randolph Oliver, to spearhead a new program to connect dentists throughout Kansas City willing to provide pro bono services to Grooming Project students and graduates. Bill and Ashley Keith stepped up to help manage the program, not only by providing free services, but also by triaging students’ dental needs so they could be paired with the proper professionals. Since 2018, more than 20 dental professionals have signed up to help.
Over the past three years, dozens of students have received comprehensive dental care through this program. On average, students visit their assigned dentist four to six times for intensive dental work. The goal of this program is to establish comfort, health, and ensure that dental issues will not interfere with their training and employment.
Students often need to have teeth removed, infections treated, root canals performed, and sometimes full reconstructive work (dentures or implants). Multiple students have also had major potential health issues unrelated to their teeth detected and thus prevented by the oral cancer screenings and other preventative procedures that are part of a common dental checkup.
A heartfelt thank you to our dental partners for providing thousands of dollars of dental care to our students!
Allison Jones Family Dentistry
Corinth Dental Care
Juliette Dennis, DDS
Stephen Huber, DDS
Kahn Family Dental Care
KC Family Dental
Keith + Associates Dentistry
Kremers, Forbes & Associates, DDS Joel LeMense, DDS
McKnight & Oliver Periodontics and Implants
McKnight Signature Dental
Andrew S. Moore, DDS
Oakley Oral Surgery
Overland Park Dental Studio
Prairie Village Dental Care
Thompson Family Dental
University Park Endodontics
Stephanie Warden, DDS
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