PACS Plans Dental Program

September 22, 2014 | Brian Vistaunet

Help is on the way for disadvantaged east Portlanders needing dental care.

Portland Adventist Community Services (PACS) is launching a dental program for low-income individuals in 2015.

PACS has long known of the great need for dental care among low-income populations, but the resources have not been there to add the new program. That changed in 2012 when an anonymous donor handed a $50,000 check to Paul Cole, PACS executive director. The donor asked Cole to use the funds as seed money to launch a dental clinic.

"It became very clear, very quickly, that God was leading us in this direction," says Cole.

That check sparked the beginning of a $700,000 campaign to add dental care to PACS's existing health clinic.

Several dentists have already signed on as volunteers to provide dental care when the program is launched. PACS has purchased a house in a mixed-use city zone directly behind PACS's current facilities to develop the clinic. Once adequate funds have been raised, the house will be remodeled into a clinic facility.

Dental care remains a significant gap in the social safety net for low-income families. One in four non-elderly adults have untreated tooth decay (Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured). But to PACS staff, the need has been most evident in the organization's own health clinic.

"We often see our own patients struggling with severe pain," says Dianne Glovatsky, PACS clinic manager. "But if it's a dental issue, we can only treat the pain, not the root of the problem because we have no dental infrastructure. This project will change that."

Carla Linquist is one of the patients that has made the need evident. She has struggled with ongoing dental issues for years due to being in a severe car accident when she was young. Her many missing teeth have severely impacted her life, including her ability to present a professional appearance in job interviews.

"You have to get a referral from a regular dentist to get dentures," she says, "but I can't even find a regular dentist who will take me."

The Dental Project is receiving major support from dental equipment company A-dec, the Oregon Community Foundation, Generations Retirement Communities and John Jones construction. The North American Division, Oregon Conference and North Pacific Union Conference have also invested in the effort.