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Laboratory professionals working to make the world a better place
The dental laboratory community is filled with people who give back, whether it is providing free dental work for those in need, using the resources of a successful business to make a difference, or simply devoting time and effort for selfless causes. In the following pages, we put the spotlight on four dental laboratory professionals who give back to the community in extraordinary ways, and who hope that their stories inspire their peers to follow suit.
Blessed with good fortune, laboratory helps its neighbors
Kristine Van Cleve was hesitant to be interviewed for this article. It’s not that she didn’t have a story to tell about her laboratory’s philanthropic activities; it’s that a key tenet of their charitable efforts is selflessness.
“We do not do this for any reason other than the fact that we are extremely blessed and we want to give back,” says Van Cleve, the President of Dental Prosthetic Services in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “We generally do not talk about it.”
Dental Prosthetic Services participates in various charities that offer dental work to patients in need. They work on approximately one or two cases per week for Dental Lifeline Network, a nationwide program that provides free, comprehensive dental treatment to people with disabilities who are elderly or medically fragile. They also work throughout the year with two free clinics in the Cedar Rapids area — the Community Free Health Clinic and His Hands Clinic. Additionally, each year they participate in the Iowa Mission of Mercy (IMOM), a two-day event where they try to produce as much prosthetic work as possible for patients in need. They have produced as many as 140 restorations in a single IMOM event.
Van Cleve agreed to participate in this story in hopes that others in the dental technology community will be inspired to undertake similar charitable activities.
“The Mission of Mercy in particular allows us to actually see the patients, and to see how people are really in dire need,” Van Cleve says. “Some patients have health problems such as diabetes that are exacerbated by not being able to chew food, and we have an opportunity to help improve their overall health.
“Also, a large segment of that population needs to go on job interviews, but the prospect of making a poor impression due to their poor oral health is intimidating. By improving that, we can help them improve their lives overall.”
Like many other laboratory owners, Van Cleve took over the family business. Her parents founded Dental Prosthetic Services in 1972, she began working there in 1976, and she bought it from her parents in 1994. She said she feels fortunate to be in this position, so when one of the laboratory’s dentist-clients came calling approximately seven years ago about helping a charity, it didn’t require much thought.
“We are so blessed with what we have here,” she says. “Providing free dental work is a very natural way for us to give back to our neighbors who are in need.”
Once they got started, they sought out additional avenues to give back, and one of the most rewarding has been the Iowa Mission of Mercy. At the two-day event, hundreds of patients flow through, some coming from several states away. Dentists, dental assistants, and hygienists also volunteer, along with other laboratories.
“When these patients walk away and realize they can smile now, it is very rewarding,” Van Cleve says. “They usually send thank you notes, which we pin up on our bulletin board in the office, and it is very inspiring.”
All of this is a result of simply doing what they’re best at, and what any other dental laboratory can do: providing people with smiles.
“We as laboratory technicians can make such a difference in somebody’s overall life — not just in their appearance but in their health and the way they feel,” Van Cleve says. “That is the biggest reason why we do it.”