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Volunteer dentists urgently needed at Salvation Army dental clinic

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- The Rochester Salvation Army Good Samaritan Dental Clinic urgently needs dentists as demand for services increases.

The Good Samaritan Dental Clinic in downtown Rochester has served under privileged people in the community for more that 20 years. It helps people with immediate dental needs, like infected teeth. Services include tooth extraction and antibiotic administration.

The clinic is mostly run by volunteers, and that includes dentists. A lot of the dentists who volunteered their services are retired and in the high-risk category for COVID-19 because of their age. This makes them no longer able to volunteer.

The pandemic has caused many to fall into financial crises, some for the first time ever in their lives. With more people inching toward poverty, demand has increased for dental services at the clinic.

"We are seeing patients now that we wouldn't have seen prior to COVID because of unemployment," Good Samaritan Dental Clinic Coordinator Tricia Karppi said.

Before the pandemic, there were four dental clinics a week. Usually, two dentists would see about 10 patients each. Karppi said now, they are only able to have two clinics a week with usually only one or two dentists seeing patients.

Karppi said the waiting list just keeps growing, as they are seeing 15 to 20 calls a day of people needing services.

"We can't keep up with the calls" Karppi said. "We're booked out about two weeks right now, and that's a long time if you have a tooth ache. That's a really long time."

Karppi said patients who aren't able to get in end up going to an ER and receive only temporary relief.

Dentists interested in volunteering their services would work a three-hour shift and see about 10 patients. Volunteer hours can go toward education credits which are required to maintain their license.

Dentists interested can contact Tricia Karppi at Tricia.Karppi@usc.SalvationArmy.org. The application process includes a form to fill out and a background check.

Megan Zemple

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