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St. Francis Mission Clinic Seeing Success

In the latest issue of the South Dakota Dental Association news magazine, there was an article on the St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic. We’ve transcribed it for you here! The article is a great look at what the clinic is doing, the experience of our volunteers and how volunteers can help!

Over the past two years 25 SDDA member dentists, and many of their staff, have provided care to patients of the St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic on the Rosebud Reservation.  Included among them are general dentists and specialists, dental students and retired dentists.  Several members have made repeated trips to the Mission.  Most recently, the SDDA hosted dentists during events in June and September.  Another event is scheduled for January 12-16 2015.  “It’s a unique experience,” said Dr. Ed Lynch, of Rapid City, who was just recently at the clinic.  “You’re working in an undeserved area, treating patients with great needs, yet you’re working in a fully-functioning dental clinic with access to everything you need to provide quality care,” he added.

Dentists and staff who volunteer at the clinic not only have a great environment to work in, they are also guests of the Mission which provides meals and housing.  Dr. Leslie Heinemann, of Flandreau, along with his wife Libby and members of his staff, have been to the Mission twice.  “It’s very nice to have accommodations right on site. We stay at the Mission’s guest house and can walk from there to the clinic each morning. At the end of a long day, it’s nice to have dinner at the Mission and then go back and relax at the guest house,” said Heinemann. “They take good care of us,” he added.

The focus for the Mission Clinic is to improve the oral and general health of Native Americans living on the Rosebud Reservation by having volunteers provide care on the reservation.  Rapid City dentist Dr. Jeff Olson was one of the dentists that established the clinic. Dr. Olson was impressed by the amount of volunteers who were willing to lend a helping hand during recent events at the clinic. “It’s so great working with people that care like we do. All the patients are so grateful to receive care that they hadn’t had the opportunity to receive before and most important, we’re saving teeth,” says Dr. Olson.  “This event addresses the backlog of restorative care needs while educating local residents on the benefits of preventing cavities and other oral health conditions.”

Volunteers are welcomed for any length of time. A typical week-long event at the clinic will include two or more shifts of dentists and staff each typically working two or two-and-half days.  Some dentst are there for only a day, while others stay for the full week.  The dentist is most efficient when they bring their own assistant with them. Hygienists are also needed at the clinic.

At a typical event, dentists will treat many patients that are making their first visit to the dentist and will need significant restorative needs.  Although, after two years of operation, the clinic now has its own base of patients who return regularly for preventative maintenance.

The Mission will host SDDA volunteers every two months.  The next event is scheduled for January 12-16, 2015.  Another event is being planned for March, Dentists, and/or staff, who want to volunteer should contact Paul Knecht or Brenda Goeden at the SDDA office by calling 605-224-9133 or email to or


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