Cairn Dental and COMOM

We all know someone who has limited resources and desperately needs dental care that they simply cannot afford. I want to share with you an event that I participate in yearly. Colorado Mission of Mercy (COMOM) takes place once a year at various locations throughout Colorado and provides quality dental services, at no cost, to individuals of all ages who cannot afford dental care.

IMG_0238The dental care includes fillings, extractions, root canal treatments, crowns, replacing missing front teeth with temporary partials, periodontal therapy and preventative services. This is only possible because of the 1000 volunteers, which include dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, dental and medical students, lab techs, pharmacists and members of the community. As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking that requires a tremendous amount of dedication from its volunteers.

The dental clinic is set up and completely operational in eight hours–the transformation never ceases to amaze me. The setup includes plumbing, a generator, clinical areas (patient and operator chairs, lights and the equipment needed to do the dentistry), sterilization, central supply, radiology, anesthesia, and patient intake. In the pictures below, you can imagine the huge empty space.

IMG_0235One picture shows the main clinic area that is partially set up and another shows the main clinic area in full operation. The clinic opens at 6am the following day and we usually work until about 6pm. The second day also begins at 6am. Then our exhausted volunteers stay after and everything is taken down on the fourth day.

This summer I will be participating for my sixth year. My involvement started when a good friend and her husband were the onsite chairs six years ago. They understood the responsibility and the special type of clinician required to work to exhaustion while still maintaining professionalism and care in such a high volume environment.

She asked for my help–I was planning on doing hygiene and helping her in whatever other capacity she needed me. A couple of weeks before the event, she realized she had no one to run volunteer check –in, and asked if I would take on this new and unknown responsibility.

IMG_0236This experience taught me a lot and once I learned the ropes, I knew how I would make it more efficient the year following. This experience was the beginning of my involvement, and my friend and I have been co-chairs for the last five years.

Funny enough, even though I consider my clinical expertise to be my most important asset to patients, I rarely work hygiene at this event due to the need for continuity in the position I hold with COMOM. I did step back into my usual hygiene role last year, however, when I was able to support the hygiene team due to an increased demand for preventative and periodontal therapy.

My husband volunteered the first time five years ago and he is hooked as well. The oral surgery department looks for him each year to escort their patients.

He has become such an asset to the organization and patients he helps. He understands the flow of the clinic so well and has a really gentle nature. He does a wonderful job at helping nervous or overwhelmed patients to feel at ease.

This is always an exhausting, but extremely gratifying weekend.

This year’s COMOM will take place in Brush, June 16-18.

–Lynne Theiss, RDH