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Monroeville dentist to offer free basic care Wednesday

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
'Smile. It's free.' That's the slogan Dr. Larry Suher is using to promote the free dental services his dental office will provide on Sept. 25. Suher — seen here with dental assistant Bella Wood and patient Catlin Lovic — will offer free cleaning, filling or tooth extraction for people who aren't current patients of his and who don't have dental insurance.

No cash, no insurance — not a problem in Monroeville, where two medical facilities within a mile of each other offer free health care to those in need.

Once a year, Dr. Larry Suher Family Dentistry offers basic dental care — a free filling, cleaning or tooth extraction. Suher, who is preparing to provide free basic dental care on Wednesday, said he treats as many uninsured patients as possible.

“We'll accept anyone who comes, as many as they come,” Suher said. “I and my staff will do what we have to do.”

Suher said he was inspired to offer free care by a dentist in Florida. The annual service has become a morale booster at his Old William Penn Highway office during the first three years Suher has offered it.

“When we go home that day, it's a day that we feel better about everything,” he said.

To get the word out, a combined 60 churches, shelters and food banks in the Monroeville and Pittsburgh area were notified of the service this year.

“They've had a good turn out (in years past), but it could always be better,” said Carly Pavlecic, marketing director for the dental office.

One of the churches Pavlecic contacted was Monroeville Assembly of God where, coincidentally, free medical care is offered to uninsured patients.

“When I saw that flyer (for free dentistry), I thought, perhaps we could work something out,” Medical clinic director JoAnn Parham said.

The church's medical ministry effort relies on donations, grants and a staff of 75 health care professionals and assistants who volunteer their time, Parham said.

While a doctor's office can be set up and disassembled each week, a dentists' chair is a permanent fixture and more challenging for a volunteer ministry to offer, Parham said. So the flyer distributed by the dentist office down the road was a pleasant surprise, she said.

“Most dentists do not do pro bono work,” she said. “It's very difficult to find.”

While some people might skip routine examinations due to financial issues, keeping up with dental visits is important because a trip can bring to light more serious health issues such as diabetes and AIDS.

Federal law requires Medicaid to cover basic dental services, though many state programs fail to deliver care to even half of their eligible children, according to the American Dental Association.

Patients who are covered under public programs still face hurdles, such as transportation to dental appointments and the difficulty of missing work to keep the appointments, according to the website.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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