DENVER – Eric Van Zytveld was fresh out of dental school when he met Dental Lifeline Network founder Dr. Larry Coffee.
“He realized that there was a huge need for care for developmentally disabled patients with mental health issues, medical issues,” recalls Van Zytveld.
Dr. Van Zytveld began volunteering with the organization as it expanded to help others in need of affordable dental care. He says the volunteer work gave him the opportunity to work with patients with more complex dental problems than a young dentist might typically see.
One of his earliest patients was Annette Stewart. After Dr. Van Zytveld helped repair some teeth she broke in an accident, she continued to see the doctor as a patient off and on through the years. However, 30 years after that accident, she became a full-time Dental Lifeline Network patient and is regularly seen by Dr. Van Zytveld.
“He's still taking care of me after all these years and has been doing a wonderful job,” Stewart says while chuckling about the many dad jokes Dr. Van Zytveld has shared with her over the years.
CEO Lynda Ricketson says there are more 7,000 people on DLN’s waiting list. For many, the network helps fill in the gaps in Medicare and Medicaid coverage.
“When you hear somebody like Annette talking about the difference that it made in her life, helping her to eat again, to smile again, that's really the thing that keeps us going every day,” Ricketson adds.
While Dr. Van Zytveld has been volunteering his time for more than 40 years, in just the past 30 years, Dental Lifeline Network estimates he has provided $100,000 in comprehensive dental care.
- Learn more about the Dental Lifeline Network
“It feels really good to be a part of this program that's been happening for decades now and making such a difference in the community,” says Hayden Kindschi, the director of Donated Dental Services for DLN.
Dr. Van Zytveld says making a difference like that is easy.
“If every dentist gave back and did one patient a year, it's a great way to give back to the community and really help out people who are in huge need.”
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