AUSTIN, Texas — A great smile is priceless. And for thousands of people living in Austin, the cost of dental work is very affordable, thanks to the hard work being done at a nonprofit called Manos de Cristo.
First impressions are important and Charm Carlin wants hers to be a good one.
"Dr. Sandoval's going to give me a crown today," she said.
For seven years, Carlin has been coming to the dental center at Manos de Cristo. The nonprofit off Harmon Avenue offers dental care at highly reduced rates.
"Operation Save the Tooth," Dental Director Dr. Kendra Sandoval said. "Basically, Charm's tooth is necrotic so it needs a crown because it has a crack. And so for cracks, we want to protect the tooth."
"The tooth she's working on is from a childhood accident. I did a backflip on the side of the pool and I've had a root canal on that tooth for years," Carlin said.
Dental work is expensive and Carlin doesn't have insurance.
"I have multiple jobs. I've been in contract labor for 25 years. I have two kids with a 12-year age gap and have been a single mom my whole life. So, it's busy," she said.
As the dental director at Manos de Cristo, Sandoval oversees five dentists and two hygienists. Their team is small but mighty. Together, they do more than 50,000 procedures a year.
"We are booked out for three months, so we're in the process of hiring another full-time dentist so we can cut down the wait," Sandoval said.
And cut down on the lingering pain and discomfort so many patients have. Carlin's procedure took all of 90 minutes and now she has her confidence and her smile back.
"They go above and beyond," Carlin said.
"And that's 100% what it is. It's just the reward from the patients," Sandoval said. "The patients are so appreciative that we can actually save them a tooth versus extract the tooth."
Dental procedures aren't the only service Manos de Cristo offers. The nonprofit also has a food pantry and a clothes closet and offers educational services.
If you would like to help out, Manos de Cristo is always looking for volunteers. Anyone who wants to volunteer has to fill out a general volunteer application where they will provide their name, date of birth, address, phone number, email address, availability, interests and any special skills or qualifications.
Help is especially needed at Manos de Cristo's food pantry and clothes closet on weekday mornings. You can help pack grocery bags or help with the clothes closet. Volunteers for either service must be able to work once a month for three consecutive months.
Learn more about volunteering with Manos de Cristo, and head to our KVUE YouTube page to hear from the nonprofit's executive director.
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