CDA Cares, the California Dental Association’s volunteer-run dental program, provided more than $1.6 million in dental services for free to 1,533 patients in Modesto on October 26 and 27. Dentists and dental professionals performed 10,314 procedures, including fillings, extractions, cleanings, and oral health education. Also, this year’s event marks its return to Modesto, the site of the inaugural CDA Cares clinic in 2012.
“The first event in Modesto was fairly well organized, but each one got progressively better,” said Stephen Abbott, DDS, who practices in Chico and has volunteered at each clinic to date. “Over the years, CDA Cares has become very good at getting patients in the door and where they need to be.”
“Since CDA Cares originated, the efficiency of how we function has continued to improve,” said Elizabeth Demichelis, vice chair of the first Modesto clinic and now committee chair for local arrangements, who notes that she put together a “dream team” of local dentists with previous CDA Cares experience and local leaders who can assist with business and community outreach.
For example, CDA Foundation partner and lead supporter Western Dental & Orthodontics sent volunteers from its offices and headquarters to play key roles at the clinic. In fact, Modesto marked the tenth consecutive CDA Cares event that Western Dental has cosponsored. Along with its volunteers, the company has provided bilingual support and supplies.
“We know that far too many Californians are not getting sufficient access to the care they need,” said John Luther, DDS, chief dental officer of Western Dental. “For us, joining with CDA Cares is a great way to serve and support communities where we have offices. Our team members are inspired and energized by the work every time.”
In addition to providing care, CDA uses the events to prioritize and publicize advocacy. Due in large part to CDA Cares support, California restored adult Denti-Cal benefits after years of eliminated and then partially restored benefits in 2017, the organization says. Ahead of each clinic, CDA Public Affairs arranges tours for local policymakers.
“We use venues throughout the state to educate local decision makers about the need for good policy,” said Demichelis.
Volunteer roles also have become more defined since the first event, and one clinic section was created based on an observed need.
“We didn’t have an organized endodontics section at that first clinic,” said Abbott. So myself and several other individuals lobbied to help put together an endo section, run today by Dr. Kevin Keating. It’s really nice to be able to save teeth that otherwise would have to be removed.”
The event has been embraced by patients and volunteers alike.
“Over the years, people have excitedly asked me, ‘When is CDA Cares coming back?’ So it’s been very exciting to be able to say, ‘It’s coming back this October!” Demichelis said. “And this time, we’ll do it even bigger and better.”
“I just love doing this. The patients are fantastic and very appreciative. The days may be exhausting, but they’re rewarding,” said Abbott.