Dr. McAllister and Emilee Casey

JOPLIN, Mo. — An area organization is helping those with special needs improve their smile. A mobile dental unit, sponsored by members of the Elks in Missouri, made a stop in Joplin this week. For the staff, it’s a chance to do rewarding work, and for the patients, it’s a place where they can be treated with compassion.

“Emilee is content here.”

Susan Casey said that’s why her daughter has been seeing the dentist in the Elk’s mobile dental lab for more than a decade.

“When she comes for her exams, they treat her well, she loves the people, and she counts down in my calendar until it’s time to come again,” said Casey.

The Elks Mobile Dental Unit provides care for patients who may not fit a traditional dental setting.

“We provide care for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities,” said Stephanie Scott, Dental Hygienist.

Scott said care can range from education, to cleaning, to something like a tooth extraction. And for her, it’s a personal mission.

“Providing them a safe space here, treating them with respect, making them comfortable in the dentist’s chair is why I’m involved.”

The vans are a partnership between the Missouri Elks and University Health Lakewood Hospital in Lee’s Summit. For this trip to Joplin, the dentist is Dr. Locke McAllister, a Joplin native who’s doing his residency.

“With something as simple as just creating a situation where they feel comfortable and can be themselves, and they’re laughing and smiling, if you don’t have a smile on your face, I don’t know what’s happening. It’s the most beautiful thing to get to do,” said Dr. McAllister.

And Dr. McAllister said he gets as much from the appointments as his patients do.

“I learn things from, like Emilee over here. She’s just the sweetest, most joyous person that I’ve met, it can’t help but make you feel like an awesome, awesome mood the whole time,” said Dr. McAllister.

For Emilee, today’s appointment was a pretty standard one:

“They brush, and floss, and fluoride, and put gel in my teeth. Stuff like that,” said Emilee.

With, thankfully, no issues. But Susan said knowing a service like the Elks Mobile Dental Unit is available, and the compassion they’ll show, makes all the difference.

“It is overwhelming because we’ve seen the opposite, and so, it means so much to us that they love my daughter,” said Casey.

The Elks Mobile Dental Unit sees patients on both sides of the state. Early next month, they’ll be in Springfield.