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Dental care comes to Salt Lake City's homeless

Published December 19, 2013 8:42 am

Health • Fourth Street Clinic will have a full-time dentist thanks to a private donation.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

More of Salt Lake City's homeless population will want to say, "cheese."

Come January, the Fourth Street Clinic, 409 S. 400 West, will provide comprehensive dental services through what CEO Kristy Chambers said was "an incredible opportunity to serve these patients."

Beyond medical and psychological needs, at least 90 percent of Fourth's Street's homeless patients suffer from significant dental problems, said Medical Director Christina Gallop. Rotten and missing teeth are not only painful, they keep the homeless from re-entering society, she said.

It's difficult to get a job if you don't have teeth.

"There is a stigma attached to people with bad teeth," said Russell Flowers, a homeless man who sits on the clinic's consumer advocacy board. "When they look in your mouth and you have no teeth, they think you don't have anything to say."

Flowers said the new clinic and dental care give hope to homeless people.

"When we get our teeth fixed, it adds to our confidence. And it makes us look a lot better, too," he said.

The new dental clinic is mad possible through a grant from Bob and Kevin Steiner of Alsco Inc., an international linen and uniform rental company headquartered in Salt Lake City. On its 125th anniversary, the company's owners wanted to give back to Salt Lake City, Bob Steiner said.

"We wanted to make a gift on our birthday to a place that makes a big difference to the people of Salt Lake City," he said.

The grant provides $125,000 annually for five years — enough for a full-time dentist. The clinic will require $450,000 per year to operate the dental program. The balance must be raised by donations. Chambers said contributions could be made through fourthstreetclinic.org.

Beyond financial gifts, the Fourth Street Clinic will get help from dental students and dental labs that provide services at discounted rates, Gallop said. "The challenge is not new to us," she said. "It's a model we've used for 25 years [providing medical care]."

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker lauded Fourth Street and the Steiner brothers for opening the dental facility.

"People in this community come together for folks who are less fortunate," he said. "This is a prime example of how to provide services for those who do without."

Fourth Street client Gwen White, who also sits on the consumer advocacy board, said their outreach program seeks to find homeless people who are unaware of the services offered by the clinic.

"The first thing they ask for is dental. … You can see their pain and their hope," she said. "We are striving to give a face to homelessness. And a big smile will make a big difference."

csmart@sltrib.com

Financial assistance

O Donate to Fourth Street Clinic's homeless dental program. > fourthstreetclinic.org