Sponsored by the California Dental Association Foundation, CDA Cares is a series of dental clinics that provides the state's underserved population with free care. The most recent event, held in May in Modesto, provided $1.2 million worth of cleanings, fillings, extractions and even dentures and partials to over 1,600 people in just two days.
For Kris Feichtmeir, a first-time technician-volunteer, the experience was both exhilarating and overwhelming. "We didn't really know what we were getting into," says Feichtmeir, Owner of QRP Dental Lab in Modesto. "We set up and thought we were OK, but then we got overwhelmed by the number of patients. I thought we'd be doing simple stayplates with just one or two teeth but we ended up doing many with up to seven teeth. We didn't have curing units or torches so we couldn't wax up and process; we had to do everything cold cure which isn't our usual technique."
However, Feichtmeir and his fellow technicians--there were 14 technician-volunteers in all--rose to the challenge, some working two 12-hour days in a row and even running back to their labs for additional materials when they ran out. Zahn Dental donated teeth and St. George Technology donated acrylic for the event.
The dental team was even able to provide patients with complete dentures using the Larrell One Step Denture System--which consists of patented preformed templates that allow you to fabricate a denture in about an hour.
Here's how it works: The premade dentures include both the denture base and teeth and come in five sizes. The dentist takes the impression, pours up the model, selects the appropriate size base and shapes it to fit the model. He then does an acrylic reline in the mouth, removes it so it can cure and gives it to the technician to finish. "It doesn't replace a traditional denture but it's a good alternative for patients who can't afford a custom one and ideal for this type of event," says Feichtmeir, who attended a training session on the system prior to the event with Dr. Peter Soderstrom who led the CDA Cares removable department.
In the end, the technicians worked on about 150 arches and, despite the challenges, Feichtmeir says he'd do it all over again. In fact, he's volunteering at the next CDA Cares event August 24-25 in Sacramento. "I just want to help people," says Feichtmeir, "I'm a Christian and that's what I do. This is just another opportunity for me to use the talents I have to bless other people. For some patients, our work is life changing and it's a beautiful thing to see."