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White Bird Clinic Expands Dental Services For Neediest In Lane County

Tiffany Eckert

White Bird Clinic has expanded services for more low-income Lane County patients. The 50-year old organization now has a new dental clinic in Eugene. KLCC’s Tiffany Eckert toured the state-of-the-art facility.

White Bird invested $2.5 million dollars to build this bright, airy dental clinic. It features the latest innovations (sound of dental tools) in modern dentistry. It has 12 dental chairs and added “no appointment needed” early morning hours for emergency care.

Besides supporting the connection between medical and oral health for unhoused people, Dental Clinic Coordinator Kim Freuen points out another way the clinic will help.

“For those patients who have a job and then they have a tooth problem, we are here with many emergency clinics so they can come in and have that tooth addressed and get back on the job.”

Credit Tiffany Eckert
White Bird Dental Coordinator Kim Freuen in brand new exam space.

White Bird serves un-insured but Freuen encourages people on Medicare or the Oregon Health Plan to check for dental coverage. She says many are unaware they have it.

"About 60% of our patients come to us for emergency dental care," Freuen says. "Then what we do is talk to them about their dental care and get them to come in for restorative care. Some people are unable to afford a lot of care and don’t know where to go and don’t know we’re available. So once they find us through a dental emergency then we’re able able to move them into other care.”

About 75% of the patients White Bird sees are below the federal poverty level living on less than $1,000 a month so we’re seeing a segment of the population that needs dental care but doesn’t know how to access it.

Freuen says the dental side often gets referrals from White Bird Medical.

“They refer them to us. The mouth is very important to us. It helps us give expression to our face. It helps us eat. It helps us laugh. We can’t overstate how important it is to the rest of our health in terms of nutrition. For those folks who are diabetic-it’s important for them to take care of their teeth so that they can keep their diabetic issues under control.”

Credit Tiffany Eckert
Chris Hecht is White Bird Clinic Co-Corrdinator. He says he was "emotional" when he first walked into the newly designed dental clinic.

Chris Hecht is Agency Co-Coordinator for White Bird Clinic. He wants to make clear the investment to build this dental facility came from grants and donations.  

"White Bird’s success is only possible by the caring and compassion of our community," Hecht says. "We’re executing on behalf of everybody who wants to see our community’s most vulnerable residents taken care of well. And a clinic like this really sends a message that we all care and that this is no second best. We’re telling people that they are worth the very best in care and that’s why we’re here.”

Credit Tiffany Eckert
White Bird's new Dental Clinic is located at 1415 Pearl Street in downtown Eugene.

White Bird’s new Dental Clinic is located at 1415 Pearl Street in downtown Eugene. There will be an open house so community members can tour the site on Thursday, January 23, from 4 to 6 pm.

Credit Tiffany Eckert
Dr. Chris Sneed has been a dentist with White Bird for almost two years. He says the new clinic is wonderful and encourages anyone needing dental care to come in. "You know where we are," he says.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.
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