Many driving up and down Amy Avenue in Louisville’s Shawnee neighborhood June 20 may have been confused to see a giant molar dancing in a parking lot. 

But Molar Marshall, the official mascot of Dental Care Plus insurance, was one of the many fun attractions of Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center’s free community dental event.

SCHC, a longtime Southeast Christian Church mission partner, teamed up with the American Dental Hygienist Association to host the association’s annual community service day.

Throughout the day, more than 50 patients were able to receive free teeth cleanings, and even more learned about the importance of oral healthcare.

Jennifer Hasch, who works as a hygienist at SCHC and is a member of the AHDA, helped organize the event.

“I wish this was something we could do more often for our community,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and invite them to become regular patients. It really helps people see what’s available to them.”

Shermane Dale, who attended the event, has been a patient of SCHC for more than 15 years. She and her three children, who are now college graduates, are grateful for a dental office that has taken care of them.

“This is a wonderful event for the community,” Dale said. “I’m very grateful to have been able to bring my kids to a place where they were taught the importance of taking care of their teeth in a place that made them feel comfortable. We know everybody by name, and my kids are still coming here to take care of their teeth. Thankfully, they make their own appointments now.”

Each year, the ADHA travels to a different city for its annual convention. This year’s convention was held in Louisville, and more than 40 ADHA members from around the country were able to serve.

With 12 ADHA members from Kentucky serving at the event, hygienists were able to provide free teeth cleanings for new and existing SCHC patients.

“We love having the opportunity to give back to the community,” ADHA President Michele Braerman said. “Typically, we are only able to provide oral health education at schools or organizations, so it’s exciting for us to be able to provide care for patients as well as helpful education.”

Booths were set up with information on various health factors that impact oral health, like pregnancy, opioid use, smoking, diabetes and age, among others. Local insurance providers were invited to offer information on their services.

“Our association’s biggest goal is to help improve the public’s overall health,” Braerman said. “Our oral health and our overall health go hand in hand, and when we can help the public see that, it improves how they take care of their mouths.”

The ADHA provided free lunch, and several attendees won door prizes such as free electric toothbrushes and other gum and dental hygiene products.

But ultimately, the event was an opportunity to love and care for the community the way Christ does.

“This is a great way for our ministry to make new connections that may change people’s lives,” SCHC Director of Patient and Community Outreach Anne Peak said. “We have to work hard to earn a patient’s trust, and understandably so, but we’ve seen many patients move from a place where they can hardly take care of themselves to taking control of their health and so many other areas of their lives. But there are also a lot of wonderful people who live here who are taking care of themselves, and they need access to quality healthcare.”

Peak said that the most important thing about serving others is listening to them.

“We see to it that the patient is always at the center of their health,” she said. “We follow their lead and help them achieve their goals rather than trying to tell them what’s best for them. We strive to bring our faith into everything we do.”