A Carmel Valley man’s invention has created a new opportunity to help people at charitable dental clinics across the nation.
In a giant warehouse at Cal Expo in Sacramento, hundreds of volunteers and patients move about a makeshift dental clinic. There are separate areas for all sorts of services from teeth cleanings to fillings to dentures. Yolanda Kinsey leans back in a chair while a dentist looks in her mouth. For four years Kinsey has had no upper teeth, the result of periodontal disease. This affects all aspects of her life, including what she can eat. “Lately I got stuck on eating Eggo waffles because they were soft. I can’t eat chicken. I can’t eat steak. I can’t really eat a salad,” said Kinsey. Plus she says having no upper teeth has also made it hard to find work as a certified nursing assistant. “Because a lot of people look at your appearance overall, and my appearance was good, but me not having my teeth hindered me,” said Kinsey.
Without a job or insurance, the last August two-day free clinic put on by the California Dental Association Foundation is Kinsey’s only opportunity to see a dentist. Normally dentures would be out of the question at a clinic like this. That’s because custom dentures are made over the course of several weeks and visits to the dentist. But this day Kinsey is getting a semi-custom denture that can be made in about an hour. It’s the Larell One Step Denture invented by Dr. Lawrence Wallace of Carmel Valley.
Dr. Wallace is a retired oral surgeon. Through the course of his career he estimates he extracted about 100,000 teeth. “I saw how it devastated people: emotionally losing your teeth, financially because they can’t afford new teeth, physically because of the trauma they have to go through to lose their teeth,” said Dr. Wallace. So in his retirement, he came up with the Larell One Step Denture. The pre-made denture comes in five different sizes that can be formed to fit the patient’s mouth. “We’re not trying to replace custom dentures. We are trying to augment them and offer an alternative,” said Dr. Wallace.
Since he made this denture available two years ago, most of his work has been with charitable clinics. But he’s slowly developing a commercial side of his business as he trains dentists in the technique. Dr. Geoff Uhrik of Modesto is one of those dentists. He’s volunteering at the clinic, and offers the Larell One Step Denture in his practice. “I offer both when I do sets of dentures for people. Some people want the custom set. You know if you have a patient, and you can only do limited resources, this is more applicable to them,” said Dr. Uhrik. The Larell One Step Denture can be made for about half the price of custom dentures, about $1200. At the two-day clinic in Sacramento, the CDA Foundation is picking the tab for patients like Yolanda Kinsey. “It’s like I got my life back,” said Kinsey after looking in the mirror and seeing a full set of teeth for the first time in four years.
As Carmel Valley’s Dr. Wallace develops the commercial side of his business, he will continue to bring his denture to charitable clinics across the nation, and is making plans to help at clinics around the world.