Cleveland dentist opens clinic for patients in poverty

Many people say they just can't afford the several hundred or even thousand dollar bill that comes with a trip to the dentist. But folks in Bradley County now have an option.

A new low-cost dental clinic has opened its doors. The Karis Dental Clinic only treats patients living in poverty.

Procedures like x-rays, tooth extractions, fillings, and cleanings are performed for a flat rate of $20.

"I knew that going to a regular dentist was not an option," said Cassandra Jordan, describing tough times after first moving to Cleveland two years ago.

She was dealing with major pain every day. Several of her teeth needed to be pulled. But she didn't have a job or insurance.

Jordan says she didn't have a choice but to just "put up with it."

"I just felt like (the tooth pain) was something I would probably have to suffer with until it fell out," she said.

That was until Jordan met Dr. James Ohlsson, who agreed to treat her at the health department for $15.

"All of my teeth were pulled that needed pulling. I had some that had broken off," Jordan explained.

Thanks to a United Way grant, Dr. Ohlsson is now doing dental work for low-income folks full-time.

The Karis Dental Clinic opened its doors last month. It only treats patients living below the poverty level. That's $980 per month for a single person, and $2,020 per month for a family of four.

Currently, over 12,000 people in Bradley County live in poverty without access to affordable dental care.

"That's a barrier that would not just make it difficult for them, but it would be impossible," said Philip Maher, who does financial screening at the clinic.

In the first month, the clinic performed $85,000 worth of dental work on 40 people, according to Maher.

"The idea of what we're doing was originally just to do extractions and to get people out of pain, and we grew because there is a bigger need," he said.

Karis provides an option for people like Jordan, who is now pain-free and more confident with her smile.

"It IS an option," Jordan emphasized. "You don't have to sit at home and suffer."

The clinic treats adult patients by appointment only. Everyone must first pass a financial screening and show proof of residency in Bradley County.

To schedule a financial screening, call (423) 457-8024.

Karis Dental Clinic

254 Broad St. SW

Cleveland, TN 37311