The waiting room of Lynne Olson’s dental office in Fargo, N.D., often looks like a delegation to the U.N. with Somalian, Vietnamese, Bosnian and Sudanese patients—most of whom are refugees. Children often translate for their parents. American Indians, students without insurance, group-home residents and families on medical assistance also find her office open to them. Referrals come from human service agencies, homeless shelters and word-of-mouth.
“Unfortunately, many patients come when the only option left is extraction,” says the dentist, in practice for 22 years. “No one should have to live through the pain of a toothache, especially children. Some have been extracting their own teeth.”
Olson doesn’t expect her patients to pay up front, nor does she turn anyone away. “If they can pay a regular monthly payment, I’m OK with that,” she says. “I don’t even know how many assistance patients I have.”
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