Restoring Teeth for a Better Life
by Paula Lomazzi

Health Care for the Homeless Advisory Board began a dental project last year to try to find dental care for those that are homeless. Dental services at the county's dental clinic are very limited, usually consisting of extracting teeth with not enough funding or dentists for fillings or restorative dental care.

Homeless individuals that are transitioning out of homelessness are often held back from finding employment because of their appearance from bad or missing teeth. This can also effect their confidence and their health.

The project began with a wonderful collaboration of Health Care for the Homeless Advisory Board members. Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee (an advisory board member) supported the project by typing the names and addresses of dentists and dental groups from the phone book, looked up and entered their zip codes and merged that information into the project's letter of introductions. Health Care for the Homeless printed the letters and envelopes. Cottage Housing volunteers stuffed the letters in the envelopes. Then the county sent the letters out. Cottage Housing volunteers help run the program with Health Care for the Homeless. Board members select new dental patients. Then, transitional housing case workers sponsor the dental patients.

Residents of transitional housing programs are the first offered dental services through the program. It was determined that they have or will have gained some stability and have case workers sponsor the resident to help insure they can make their appointments. There can be many appointments and the care may last for several months for restorative dental work.

Now the dentists of Sacramento are collaborating to restore homeless people's teeth and dignity. So far, five dentists have responded favorably and have volunteered to take one or more patients per year without charge. Work has begun and has been completed on several patients, with gleaming results.

The Sacramento County Health Care for the Homeless Advisory Board is an organized board of representatives advocating the health and welfare of the County's homeless men, women and children. They meet on third Fridays of each month at 9:30 AM at Loaves & Fishes' conference room.

[UPDATE: There are now 6 dentists signed up. Also, the Health Care for the Homeless meetings are held every 3rd Friday, 9:30 AM at the Delany Center (corner of Ahern and 12th Streets)