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Community Voices: Free Clinic’s dental services change lives

Karen Chassin

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St. Pete Free Clinic volunteer dentists Dr. John Chulick Jr. (father) and Dr. JP (son). Photo provided.

Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

Dental health – or a lack thereof – has an impact on overall health. In order to support the full health of the community members it serves, the St. Pete Free Clinic opened a dental care program in 2011. It has grown to serve approximately 1,900 patients last year.

The SPFC Dental Center is staffed by volunteer dentists, hygienists and dental assistants who generously donate their skills and services to perform cleanings, fillings, extractions and dentures to people without insurance. The retail value of these services averages nearly $70,000 per month.

While the SPFC’s free one-day Dental Clinics were suspended during Covid, they are returning beginning Aug. 20, with appointment slots for 65 patients. Appointments for X-xrays, which must be taken by Aug. 17th, and the Aug. 20 Dental Clinic are being taken at 727-485-8795, extension 319.

Dr. John Chulick, Jr. is one of the SPFC’s 26 volunteer dentists. He urges everyone to keep up with their dental visits to head off problems before they escalate. “Don’t wait until you are in pain to see us,” he counsels.

Chulick’s love of dentistry and concern for the local community keep him volunteering at the Dental Clinic. He enlisted his son, JP Chulick, to serve has his assistant while he was an undergraduate. JP went on to dental school and now works alongside his father as a volunteer dentist.

Grateful patients report feeling welcome and supported by the Dental Clinic staff and dentists. “I had a wonderful experience throughout the entire process to get my dentures,” one man said. “I don’t have words to express how good I feel now.”

“Something as simple as a smile can make a big difference in someone’s life,” says Dental Clinic Director Claudia Rosas. “We smile to make friends. We smile to get a job. Our patients come to have that healthy smile.”

The Dental Clinic is only one of the services the St. Pete Free Clinic provides to people in need in Pinellas County. It distributed more than 20 million pounds of food and provided a range of healthcare, recovery housing and education services to thousands of people last year.

 

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