ACCESS TO DENTAL CARE PROGRAM AWARD: STOWE MISSION OF CENTRAL OHIO
The Stowe Mission of Central Ohio, which operates a free dental clinic to provide care for those in need, will receive the 2023 Ohio Dental Association Access to Dental Care Program Award on Friday, Sept. 22 at the Callahan Celebration of Excellence, held in conjunction with the 157th ODA Annual Session.
The Stowe Mission, which was originally known as the German Village Baptist Church, began serving people in 1967. The programs at Stowe Mission fall into three categories to serve those in need – hunger, health care and education. Stowe Mission meets these needs through its community kitchen, food pantry, dental clinic, vision clinic, pregnancy resource center, after-school program and weekly Christian services.
The Stowe Mission dental clinic was founded in 1980 by Dr. Danny Stowe, son of Stowe Mission’s pioneer missionary, Darty F. Stowe. Dr. Danny Stowe had participated in many mission trips abroad to provide dental care, and was inspired to start a dental clinic in Columbus to help people in need in his own community, said Kelli Karlich, Executive Director of the Stowe Mission. Stowe continues to be actively involved in providing care at the clinic.
The clinic started with just one dental chair and offered only tooth extractions.
“We do mostly extraction clinics, so when people call us, they’re in pain,” Karlich said. “Just relieving that pain is a huge benefit.”
In 2018, teeth cleanings were added in partnership with the Columbus State Community College Hygiene Program.
“The hygiene program comes down and their students get practice and we get a service that our clients desperately need as well,” Karlich said.
In March of 2023, the clinic also started offering fillings on a limited basis thanks to a donation that allowed the clinic to purchase the equipment and supplies needed.
The dental clinic is fully staffed by volunteer dentists, dental assistants and hygienists, and students from The Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College dental programs. The clinic does not accept dental insurance or Medicaid and no payment is required, but they suggest a $10 donation from patients to help offset costs.
The clinic now features six dental chairs, and patients receive digital X-rays, pain medications and antibiotics as needed. Patients range from students to senior citizens and come from across Ohio.
The extraction clinic is open every Monday evening, the first Friday of each month and the third Thursday of each month. Cleaning clinics are scheduled 12 times per year for adults and eight times per year for students in the Stowe Mission after-school program.
“We added our after school program students into cleaning clinics last year,” Karlich said. “At least half had never had their teeth professionally cleaned, they were actually very excited to go in and get their teeth cleaned.”
Filling clinics happen once per month and patients are referred from the extraction clinics if a dentist feels a tooth can be saved.
“We had a man come in for the extraction clinic whose front teeth were damaged, I believe because of prior drug use,” Karlich said. “The dentist thought his teeth could be saved through restorative care. He went from having half of his teeth in the front to having a full set of teeth. When you see the pictures of him, it’s life changing. He didn’t have a smile that he could show to anyone before.”
When needed, patients will be referred out for services, but the goal is to continue adding services so patients can receive care at the Stowe Mission, Karlich said.
Karlich said that when they have patients who don’t show up for an appointment, they’ll often go into their community kitchen to see if there’s anyone there who needs care and could fill the appointment.
The number of patients the clinic sees is growing each year, and in 2022 the clinic saw 463 patients and provided 401 extractions and 62 cleanings.
Karlich said her favorite part about being involved with the clinic is helping people who need care, including seniors and students.
“I think a lot of it is just knowing we’re providing care to people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to get what they needed. Knowing we’re helping people,” she said.
The ODA’s Access to Dental Care Program Award honors an outstanding program that helps reduce the access to care problem in Ohio by offering free or reduced fee dental care to underserved populations.