This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A wisdom tooth is beginning to force its way to the surface on the top left side of Stephanie Mora's jaw. Left alone, it would warp the alignment of her teeth and could lead to an assortment of problems.
She had no clue until she saw Ken King, a dentist who was volunteering during a free care fair sponsored by the Junior League of Salt Lake City.
This gathering Saturday in the cafeteria of the Horizonte Instructional & Training Center was relatively small by the Junior League's standard. Their big health fair in mid-July usually draws thousands.
Still, Mora, from Salt Lake City, arrived more than an hour early, waited in a line for the doors to open at 9 a.m. and even then had to wait 40 minutes for her chance to sit in a dental chair. She left with a voucher to take care of that wisdom tooth and a cavity at another clinic. When she left, more than 60 people were waiting for their turns in the makeshift clinic.
"I think they were awesome," said Mora, who heard about the free care through the Urban Indian Center. "They were really outgoing, friendly, talkative."
She was talking about the two dozen students from Salt Lake Community College, Roseman University and Fortis College, who performed cleanings for each patient. Some students are studying to be dentists, while others plan to become a dental assistant or hygienist. Afterward, they would wave a red triangular flag indicating that they were ready for one of the three dentists to stop by for an examination.
Among the students was Megan Chapman, from Taylorsville, who for the past year has studied dental hygiene at SLCC's Jordan campus. As part of her schooling, she sees about four patients a week at a discount clinic where adults can get care for $25. It's just $15 for teens and children.
The benefit for volunteers like Chapman is the experience of seeing a wide variety of dental care situations, from people with perfect teeth to those who have an abscess or serious gum disease.
"They can realize that there is a need in the community, it is not just about practicing cosmetic dentistry," said King, who works at Roseman University.
Charles Walker, a dentist in private practice in Salt Lake City's Sugar House neighborhood, has volunteered with the Junior League for more than a decade. "There is just a lot of need in this area," he said.
Part of the reason the Junior League has added extra dental fairs, like the one held Saturday, is because dentistry isn't covered under plans offered through the Affordable Care Act.
Donors to the service organization make it possible to give patients like Mora a voucher for free or reduced care.
Patients also could get a blood test for diabetes and their vision checked. Those who needed them could pick out a free pair of reading glasses and Zions Bank donated boxes of books.
The Family Dental Plan, part of the Utah Department of Health, set up the 10 makeshift dental stations, and had another 20 at a University of Utah free dental fair focused on children held the same day.
The Junior League is planning another dental fair in April, but has yet to pick a date. It will be listed on the League website at http://www.jlslc.org.