OKLAHOMA CITY — Imagine not going to the dentist for a year, decades or, perhaps, ever. For some Oklahomans, that’s a painful reality. It’s a big problem, but for one weekend next month, hundreds of Oklahomans will get the help they need.
Remote Area Medical volunteer health professionals are offering a weekend of free dental, vision and limited medical care on Aug. 16 and 17 at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.
“As far as who these folks are, in terms of where they come from and what their needs are, most of them are seeking dental care. And, well, it’s sort of one of these things where people seek dental care or vision care because they are in pain or can’t see, and this type of event offers straightforward access,” said Tres Savage, RAM Oklahoma president and Norman native. “We don’t ask about income. We don’t require people to jump through a lot of hoops ... Frankly, for a lot of folks that’s their best chance to see a dentist or eye doctor.”
Savage said about 50 percent of the patients are employed. Some lost jobs in the recession. Some have part-time jobs. No matter what their financial situations, RAM is there to help, he said.
“It’s preventable, but I sort of liken it to driving your car for five years without changing your oil. You’d end up having bad results. After a long time, it’s not overnight, things get really bad,” Savage said. “It’s a good event for people to see to be reminded of the amount of need that’s out there.
“A lot of these folks are our neighbors, our friends, artists maybe, parents themselves who put their kids’ needs first. People don’t realize how limited Medicare is for lower-income parents and some people don’t have access to the preventative care they need.”