Posted on Feb 05, 2023
It’s hard to function when your teeth hurt. The St. Leo’s Dental Clinic in Solana Beach began in 1991 as part of the St. Leo’s Medical Clinic that was founded by one of our charter members, Dr. Dick Wheelock.  Our club has long been instrumental to the success of St. Leo’s Dental Clinic. We’ve provided funds and labor to outfit the clinic, which in 2016 received upgraded flooring and updated dental chairs.  The clinic was running at full capacity when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Paul McEneany of St. Leo’s came to speak to our club about St. Leo’s post-pandemic activities. After re-opening on June 8, 2022, the clinic began treating patients on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. The focus is on serving low-income adults and prioritizes patients who are in pain. There is no cost to patients, but they are asked to make a donation, if they are able, to offset the operation expenses. Paul said that 85% of patients agree to make a donation, and of those who pledge to donate, 100% fulfill their pledge. As a free clinic, the dental professionals who volunteer their time are covered with unlimited liability insurance under a federal program. However, dentistry is equipment-intensive. St. Leo’s is in particular need of updated compressor and vacuum systems that are critical for proper function of dental tools as well as new X-ray equipment for rapid diagnosis and the latest software to track patient progress. 
The need for care is great: The CDC’s Disparities in Oral Health report indicates that 40% of low-income adults have untreated tooth decay that is associated with loss of millions of hours of school and work hours. Up to one-fifth of adults reported that the appearance of their teeth affected their confidence in interviewing for jobs. To assist with re-opening expenses and to help the clinic serve more people, our members raised $1140 in one Happy Dollars session in December, and an anonymous donor provided another $1000. We presented these funds to Paul at our meeting. Our club will continue to partner with the clinic to ensure that our neighbors have access to excellent dental care.