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"It changed my life"

"Fantastic" is how Jesse Gribble describes the work of the Medical Teams International dental van, staffed by volunteers such as dentist Susan Rustvold, D.M.D.

Providence Milwaukie Hospital

Providence Milwaukie provided $9,748,000 in community benefits in 2010, including $5,182,000 in free or reduced-cost care to patients in need.

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Jesse Gribble was only 21 when his teeth, and his life as he'd known it, began to crumble. The Milwaukie man with a family history of dental problems couldn't afford the care he increasingly needed for his eroding and abscessed teeth.

"I remember waking up in the middle of the night in so much pain that I didn't know what to do with myself," Jesse says.

Over the years, he visited the Providence Milwaukie Hospital Emergency Department some two dozen times for pain medicine or antibiotics.

Even more relentless was the mental and emotional pain.

People would stare and pass judgment because of how he looked, recalls the gentle-natured 33-year-old. He shied away from social situations, lost confidence in finding a better job. He no longer could chew most foods.

"Unless you go through it, you really can't understand what it does to you or the way it affects every little bit of your life," Jesse says.

Then, last year, he learned that the hospital had begun sponsoring monthly visits to its campus by the Medical Teams International dental van. Volunteer dental professionals provide free basic services for low-income patients who lack dental insurance.

At his appointment aboard the van, a staff member informed Jesse that yes, they really could take care of him. They could do extractions in preparation for dentures.

"I was blown away," Jesse marvels. "It changed my life in that moment."

Today, since being fitted with dentures in December with help from a loan, Jesse wears a brand-new smile and outlook. He's attending Clackamas Community College and contemplating a major.

"I'm a lot more comfortable," Jesse says, "and I'm confident in actually going out and looking for what I really want to do with my life."