LOUISVILLE, Ky. — No drilling, no cleanings, no patients for 10 months. The coronavirus pandemic forced the Louisville Dental Society's Free Smiles Clinic to shut down for almost the entirety of 2020.
After several false starts, the program is bracing for new life.
Co-founder Dr. James Ransdell said things definitely look different and the program they've had to heavily scale back the program, but his team has put a lot of time and effort into making the clinic safe for everyone.
Volunteers wear disposable gowns and masks, no one is allowed in the waiting room and social distancing is enforced to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Ransdell said opening back up is not just about giving people a picture-perfect smile - it's about their health as a whole.
"The mouth is the keystone to your health, so you need to keep your oral hygiene and oral diseases under control," he said.
He said things that start as minor infections can turn into major issues if they're not addressed - and he's seeing more of these major issues because of the pandemic.
Many people went months without dental care, so the clinic changed its focus from preventative care to treatment, working on fillings, restorative work and pain-related issues.
The goal is to eventually get back to preventative care and work on those smiles - even if they're covered by a mask.
The next free dental clinic is scheduled for Jan. 23 at the Family Community Clinic. You can call 502-384-8444 to make an appointment. If English is not your first language, there are interpreters available to help as well.
The clinic plans to take appointments once a month for the rest of the year on a tentative schedule.
Dr. James Ransdell started the Free Smiles Clinic in 2015, offering services like teeth cleaning, scaling and examinations to people without health insurance or low-income families.
Learn more about Dr. Ransdell's mission and the work he's done through the clinic here.