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‘Pay-what-you-can’ dental clinic supports Big Sky’s Spanish-speaking community

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Organizers still seeking another dental hygienist for July 30 program


It’s hard to get some people to go to the dentist. Add a language barrier and going to the dentist may only be the result of absolute necessity for many people. One dentist in Big Sky is seeking to help the members of his community receive the care they may need, by working on a Sunday and out of his own pocket.

On Sunday, July 30, Lone Peak Dental will be offering a “pay-what-you-can” dental clinic for Spanish-speaking workers and residents of Big Sky. Dentist Ryan Boswell and his wife Jesse, co-owners of Lone Peak Dental, have teamed up with Samantha Suazo (a Lone Peak High School graduate and immigrant from Honduras, who now attends Yale University) and Ursula Blythe (a soon-to-be LPHS freshman) to organize this event. Big Sky resident Barbara Rowley (who has also been a mentor to both Suazo and Blyth) helped connect the dots to organize this event through a new program called “Sonrisas”—Spanish for “smiles.”

Focused on improving access to dental care for community members who may struggle, the event is funded by the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation, the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation and with additional help from MSU’s Proyecto Salud. In addition to the dental service, Proyecto Salud will be providing baseline health screenings like blood pressure checks.

“We’re here for [the community]. And that goes for everybody,” Ryan Boswell told EBS. “I think one of the helpful things is, Jesse is fluent in Spanish. I studied in Spain, she lived in Chile for a long time. This is a group of people in this community that we’re able to be there for, but a lot of people might not be able to—just due to the language barrier.” 

Ryan and Jesse Boswell run Lone Peak Dental and both share experience in social work, health and human services. COURTESY OF RYAN BOSWELL

“We’re gonna feel really happy and satisfied that so many people are receiving dental care because of the generosity of these foundations—and in particular this dentist and his wife,” Rowley told EBS.

All 22 spots are filled for Sunday’s clinic, with patients identified through community connections by Rowley, the Boswells, Suazo and Blythe. Patients will be receiving cleanings, X-rays, and small fillings or sealants for children. Larger procedures will have to be scheduled for weekday appointments. In offering these services for no profit, the Boswells are hoping to open the door to follow-up care if necessary. 

Everybody involved is hoping that by providing this service to the community, other dentists will consider similar outreach themselves. They are also seeking another dental hygienist willing to volunteer, or to simply work for their regular fee, to allow the clinic to see double the capacity for patients on July 30.

“We would love people to copy our idea in other towns,” Rowley said. “There are foundations out there that understand that this is a health issue. There are people out there that—it’s documented—have a special need for this. And there are professionals who can help and these professionals don’t have to work completely for free.”

More information can be found on the Sonrisas instagram page

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