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Free dental exams at Klamath Open Door

Doctors expected more than 140 people to show up for free dental exams as part of an annual Presidents Day offering at Klamath Open Door Family Practice on Monday, Feb. 19.

Five years ago, Dr. Tim Murphy pitched the idea of free dental care on Presidents Day.

Murphy, who was then starting as dental director at Klamath Open Door Family Practice, said he wanted an event to help several patients who may have fallen through the cracks or have no access to dental care.

The plan was well received, and so a tradition began.

“They said ‘go for it,’ “ Murphy said. “And the board, the CEO have all been very supportive of it.”

Of those surveyed in 2016, at least 67 percent of Oregon adults 18 and older made visits to the dentist within a year, which is roughly the same amount as in 2002, according to an Oregon oral health surveillance from the Oregon Health Authority.

The free dental services at Klamath Open Door have traditionally included standard cleanings, fillings and extractions. For this year’s event, Murphy said they expected about 140 people, based on at least 69 who had received treatment as of noon Monday. People filled the lobby at the South Sixth Street medical complex just an hour later at 1 p.m.

Some of them may have waited for up to four or five hours for treatment due to the demand, but Murphy said everyone “leaves with a smile.”

“They’re so grateful because a lot of them have really put this off for a while and they really appreciate the opportunity of getting it done,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he and his colleagues, which includes four dentists, two Oregon Institute of Technology dental students and four hygienists, were happy to help.

More information on Klamath Open Door Family Practice can be found online at klamathopendoor.org.