About three times a year, Exalta Health hosts a Free Dental Day.
As the name suggests, the popular event sees Exalta Health staff and volunteers open the doors to anyone in need of dental care, offering free services on a first-come, first-served basis, no questions asked and no proof of income or insurance needed.
The first was held in August 2015. The most recent incarnation of Free Dental Day took place on Friday, February 7, 2020.
Exalta Health volunteer coordinator Karleigh Hoekstra lined up local volunteers to help Exalta Health dental staff provide everything from X-rays and cleanings to fillings and extractions.
All told, Hoekstra said, four volunteer dentists, two volunteer dental assistants and two volunteer dental hygienists, plus a volunteer patient guide, joined forces with Exalta Health dental director Daniel Armstrong and a number of his on-staff assistants and hygienists to provide care for 28 patients in a day that began at 7 am and finished at 2:30 pm.
Patients were grateful for the chance to be cared for. One Medicaid patient came because her income is such that she simply can’t afford dental care. She was near tears as she thanked Exalta Health staff for her first trip to a dentist in three years. She now plans to become an Exalta Health patient.
Another person with some black spots on her front teeth told Armstrong that she helps out at a local school and that when a student had pointed out her teeth, she was mortified. Armstrong was able to fill two of her front teeth on Free Dental Day, and she was overjoyed.
“Sometimes I wonder if these kinds of events are needed,” said Armstrong, “but then to see dozens lining up for services reminded me that oral health is critical for self-esteem, success, and overall health. It is my hope that the spirit of Christ is truly reflected in our healthcare.”
The presence of the volunteers, added Armstrong, is a plus for patients and for Exalta Health staff. “The professional volunteers coming in happy and willing to serve the least of our neighbors really encourages me in the work,” said Armstrong.
Exalta Health offers regular dental services on a sliding-fee scale and on a walk-in basis as part of a comprehensive approach to health, including exams, dentures, root canals, minor oral surgery and more.
In addition, in January 2017, Exalta Health began providing dental services to eligible seniors, thanks to support from the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan through the Senior Millage program.