Serving While Training
Educational facility provides free services to those in need
Like many dental laboratory technicians, Lucy Carrasco has changed the lives of several people she has never even met. Often, the last time she sees her work is when it is shipped off to the dental office. "I did not always get to see the happy patient at the end of their journey," Carrasco says.
Working at The Aspen Group's TAG Oral Care Center for Excellence has changed that. Carrasco now spends much of her time at a first-of-its-kind facility in Chicago, Illinois, providing comprehensive dental care at no cost to underserved Illinois residents. The Aspen Group estimates it provides $8 million to $10 million each year in free services and products to qualifying patients—Illinois residents who are either eligible for Medicaid or uninsured with a household income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Patients receive comprehensive dental care, including fillings, extractions, nonsurgical periodontal treatment, dental implants and associated restorations, and restorative dentistry including crowns, bridges, and dentures. Carrasco says she has now helped 20 patients undergo smile makeovers. "We are helping patients complete full healthy-mouth journeys, including major restorative services—not just one-and-done repairs and treatments for training purposes," she says.
Each patient first meets with the TAG Oral Care Center team for the development of a full treatment plan. The team then performs an intraoral scan and, after the treatment plan has been accepted and begun, follows up with the patient as necessary to ensure the entire journey is seamless.
Recently, Carrasco worked on a full-mouth restoration and makeover for a patient who was preparing to embark on a new job search after having suffered from a drug addiction. The Aspen Group not only brought in its dental experts to help with a healthy-mouth makeover but also included a team from Chapter Aesthetic Studio for a facial to help restore the patient's confidence. "It is very meaningful to know that I am playing a small role in helping people get their lives back," Carrasco says. "Not only will these services have an impact on her oral health, but they will also have a positive impact on her mental health and confidence, putting her in the strongest position to walk into job interviews with her best face—and smile—forward."
While every dental restoration should make a positive impact on a patient's life, working with the underserved has been particularly gratifying for Carrasco. "I have always enjoyed the ability to put smiles on patients' faces, but here, I know we are helping the patients who truly need it the most—those who otherwise would never be able to afford procedures such as dentures or implants," she says. She encourages other dental professionals to give back when opportunities arise as well. "Giving back to my community," she says, "fits into our mission to protect patients by helping those around us and making the world a better place."