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Providers of Health Care to Needy Kansans Learn About Corrections Dental Lab

by KDOC News — last modified Oct 17, 2017 01:52 PM
Through the work done in a dental lab at Topeka Correctional Facility (TCF) in conjunction with Kansas Safety Net Clinics, medically underserved Kansans are having their dental prosthesis needs met at a price they can afford.


Kansans without insurance or the financial means to meet their need for dentures are finding that through medical “safety net clinics” around the state, they have access to high quality products that Kansas Correctional Industries (KCI) is producing in the TCF Dental Lab at the women’s facility in Topeka at a reduced cost.

KCI, a subsidiary of the Kansas Department of Corrections, teaches offenders new skills, and allows them to earn wages in preparation for life outside of a correctional facility. Among the programs overseen by KCI are some service enterprises such as the Wild Mustang Project, Inmate Canteen, Print Shop and the dental lab.

The KCI dental lab at TCF produces all the dentures and partials needed by offenders in KDOC facilities – several hundred per year. Additionally, the lab turns out about 150 dentures for needy Kansans as part of the mission of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved (KAMU).

Dr. Tomas Co, the supervisor/instructor of the KCI/TCF Dental Lab since 2012, spoke Thursday at the Oral Health and the Safety Net dental directors training in Salina sponsored by KAMU. Dr. Co told the dental directors, clinic managers, executive directors, and dental and clinical staff from Kansas and Nebraska gathered for the training about the impact the lab is having on the medically underserved population in Kansas. 

“If you are compassionate and you care, you can make a difference.” Dr. Co said. “In the work you are doing to help those in need in your clinics, you can know you are also making a difference in the lives of the women in the dental lab at TCF. You are contributing to these women having a sense of worth.” 

People who visit one of the many Safety Net Clinics around Kansas and are identified as needing a dental prosthesis will have x-rays taken and impressions made of their mouths. Then the clinics will send the impression to the KCI/TCF Dental Lab which then will make a wax version of the denture. They will then send it back to the clinic for the patient to try in and to see if any adjustments need to be made. The wax set up is then sent back to the dental lab, where the final product is made and shipped back to the clinic.

The impact of these dentures on the recipients is often expressed to the women in the lab via thank you cards and photos.

“One of them even cried with joy,” one dentist wrote to the women in the lab. “Thought you’d like to know what a difference your work is making!”

Melody Martin, Director of Development and Training for KAMU, said she wanted safety net providers in Kansas and Nebraska to have a chance to meet Dr. Co and to hear from him about the service provided by the KCI/TCF dental lab.

“For a lot of the people who are treated in the clinics, they haven’t had access to oral health services for years,” Martin said. “For many of them, having access to high quality, affordable dentures can be life changing.”

Women at TCF who qualify for the dental lab program begin with classroom work and hands-on training before they begin working on products for actual use. The program, which takes about five years to complete, equips the participants to become competent dental technicians - a trade in high demand currently in Kansas and across the U.S.

“The lab is giving me the skills I need so that after my release, I can take apply for jobs at dental labs,” said one participant in the program. “They will help me make contacts and get placements to transition successfully. I will be able to develop a career and have a productive life.

“We do a good job and are needed by the people we are helping,” she added. “It makes me feel so much better about myself that I’m providing something to the community that I’ve taken so much from before.”

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