Dentists give county’s needy reason to smile during holiday season

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — On a day when staff members could have been off running errands, making holiday purchases or conducting chores around their homes, they instead went to work – helping a lobby full of patients in desperate need of dental help.

Drs. Conway and Bucaj dental practice opened its doors over the weekend to more than 30 clients from the Homeless Family Center, offering cleanings, fillings and other emergency dental work. “It’s a God blessing,” Homeless Family Center resident Josephine said of being able to come to the dentist and have work done.

She needs a full root canal, she said, but the work couldn’t be done in a short amount of time. Instead, one of the dentists removed a part of the affected root to provide temporary relief.

“I already feel a difference,” Josephine said, noting that she could now eat ice cream without fear of the pain she’s been living with for about a year.

Josephine is expected to come back another day to have the root canal done.

Fellow resident Clarissa has an uneven jaw that causes discomfort when eating. She hopes to come back and have that work done. In the meantime, she received an emergency filling for a tooth that had kept her from enjoying food.

“It isn’t hurting anymore,” Clarissa said. “It feels good.”

Dr. Suzanne Conway said that the dental practice was happy to be able to help the families at the Homeless Family Center. During the holidays, they wanted to reach out and do something for others.

Though there are other organizations in the community that provide assistance, she said her practice could help in another way.

“We can cut through some red tape,” she said.

The office screened between 30 and 40 patients to determine what their dental needs are and also expedite any emergency dental work.

Dr. Conway said that the patients will be invited back to the office as time allows during the regular work day to have more work done.

The purpose, she said, is to take care of cosmetic and painful dental issues to help the patients feel more confident.

“The first thing that families let go is dental care,” said Lorne Coyle, executive director of the Homeless Family Center, adding that many of the residents have significant dental care problems.

“We are very grateful,” to Drs. Conway and Bucaj, he added, noting that they did not hesitate to help and provide earlier intervention and top notch care.

“This is huge for our people,”Coyle said. “I think our families will be smiling a lot more.”


How to help:

The dental office is providing the dental care to the families at the Homeless Family Center for no cost to the organization or the residents.

Anyone who would care to donate funds to cover some of the dental costs or would like to sponsor a resident’s care is encouraged to contact the Homeless Family Center by calling (772) 567-2766, visiting, or mailing donations to: Homeless Family Center, P.O. Box 650855, Vero Beach, FL  32965-0855.

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