Alton Thayer, MO 2545

Missouri Elks Major State Project

The Missouri Elks Dental Care Program

Established in 1962, the Missouri Elks Dental Care Program consists of Mobile Dental Units which are purchased and equipped by the Elks. These units serve the dental needs of manageable handicapped and crippled children, as well as mentally retarded/developmentally disabled adults and children. Three mobile units provide service to the entire state. The Elks Dental Program is administered by the Missouri Department of Health and the Truman Medical Center. The Hospital staff the units, schedule and complete visits, and report to the Director of the Missouri Elks Benevolent Trust.

This year the Elks Mobile Dental Unit will be positioned on Rodeo Drive, in the Thayer City Industrial Park, at the Thayer/Mammoth Spring Saddle Club grounds. The Elks Mobile Dental Unit will serve needy patients from the Thayer, Alton, Mammoth Spring, Couch, Lanton, Rover, Thomasville, Winona, Koshkonong, Brandsville, Riverton, Wilderness, Doniphan, Myrtle, West Plains, Mountain View, Willow Springs, Pottersville, South Fork, Caulfield, Bakersfield, Peace Valley, Birch Tree, Eminence and Winona areas.

If you are interested in the program, please contact the Lodge regarding eligibility and the next available date.  Currently, we are scheduled to host the Dental Unit in Thayer form May 2nd to May 20th.

Many of the people who visit the Elks' Mobile Dental Units wouldn't get any dental care otherwise. And with a declining budget for federal and state health-care programs, the donations and volunteers from Elks' Lodges are keeping the dental program running. There are three dental units in all, and each one circulates around a specific territory to serve patients all year. Many times, the dentist with the mobile unit is the only person who will see these patients.. Finding a dentist who takes Medicaid is nearly impossible, and many dentists won't take the time necessary to treat a developmentally challenged or disabled patient. But mobile dental units have served the mentally challenged and developmentally disabled adults and children since 1962. All the equipment was purchased with donations from Elks through pledges, gifts and a benevolence fund. In an average year, the services amount to nearly $500,000 worth of free dental work. Mary Johnson and her 22-year-old son, Chad, travel from Winona, Mo., to visit the dental clinic in West Plains or Thayer each year. Chad has been treated by the clinic ever since he was a small child, his mother said. During his last visit in 2003, he asked the dentist to pull a loose tooth that had broken off. After sitting still for an X-ray, the Elks Dentist determined that Chad needed to see an oral surgeon. While the mobile unit can handle most any procedure, pulling out Chad's wisdom tooth wasn't possible since it requires sedation. The dental unit typically does exams, cleaning, sealing or adding crowns to teeth and removing infected or painful teeth but only with a local anesthetic. The RV houses everything that you'd find in any other dental office, except that it's a little smaller and more mobile. The Elks Dentist can see only one patient at a time since there's limited space, and the waiting area includes one small seat near the driver's and passenger's seats at the front. The Elks' Dentist likes that fact that he can spend plenty of time with each patient. "No one cares how many patients I see in a week. I'm not pressured to meet the patient management quotas that other dentists have to tackle. I don't have just 15 minutes to do a cleaning and an exam. If it takes 20 minutes to coax a patient into a chair, that's what it takes. We explain what we're going to do and what the brush feels like. Taking that time with a patient can help them feel more comfortable and make the procedure go smoother. The program gives me a chance to focus on patient care and not worry about other incidental things. It's very challenging and rewarding."r