Sunrise Rotary hears of help given by Karis Dental Clinic

Posted 10/1/17

While many people see getting regular dental checkups as an essential practice for good health, dental care remains out of reach for many people with low incomes.

Karis Dental Clinic, a …

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Sunrise Rotary hears of help given by Karis Dental Clinic


While many people see getting regular dental checkups as an essential practice for good health, dental care remains out of reach for many people with low incomes.

Karis Dental Clinic, a nonprofit dental practice in downtown Cleveland, has been working to change that.

Kelly Ohlsson, the practice’s co-founder, recently spoke to the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club about how it has been helping more people get the care they need.

“Adult dental care in Bradley County is one of the greatest needs we have in terms of health,” Ohlsson said.

In 2011, those exploring the possibility of starting what would later become Karis conducted a needs survey in conjunction with the local United Way. Then, dental care was “the No. 1 unmet need” among the low-income populations surveyed.

Karis “started small” in 2013 with extraction-only dental care events. Ohlsson said tooth extractions are, unfortunately, very much needed among those who have gone years without proper dental care.

As demand grew for these services, plans for a full-service dental practice began to take shape. In the fall of 2015, Karis Dental Clinic opened. It is now run full-time by dentist Dr. James Ohlsson, DDS, and his staff.

“We are a full-service dental clinic, with professionals staff and equipment,” Kelly Ohlsson said. “We wanted our clinic to feel like any other dental clinic people might go to in the community.” 

The difference is the clinic’s mission to provide good dental care to people who could not normally afford it.

Karis, the name of which inspired by a Greek translation of the word “grace,” works with each patient to make sure his or her bill is covered.

Personalized payment arrangements are made with each patient. Flat, discounted fees are billed to patients who can pay for at least some of their care. A scholarship fund, maintained with help from the United Way and a variety of private donors, helps cover the rest.

Ohlsson said the clinic had a very busy year last year, and it provided $1,198,599 worth of dental services to its patients. However, the patients altogether paid just $100,277 of that, thanks to the clinic’s commitment to keeping costs low and patients benefitting from $2,760 worth of scholarships.

During her visit, the Rotary Club donated $750 to Karis Dental Clinic’s scholarship fund. Ohlsson thanked the club, saying that donations like this help provide more care to people in need.

In 2016, Karis had 2,278 dental appointments, which included appointments with 636 new patients. Services provided in 2016 included 2,326 extractions, 899 fillings, 255 cleanings, 144 dentures or partials, 76 crowns and 47 root canals.

“We really are full-service,” Ohlsson said. “We pretty much do everything except for dental implants.” 

Though Karis has only been full-service for two years, Ohlsson said there have been many patient success stories so far.

She shared the story of one woman who experienced a big boost of self-esteem after Karis helped her improve her smile. This woman was missing most of her teeth, and being able to get dentures gave her the confidence to make other positive changes in her life.

Other stories she shared spoke of patients who needed help overcoming infections and other health problems caused by poor dental hygiene.

In addition to treating these problems, staff of Karis have been educating patients about how they can take care of their teeth at home to prevent future problems.

“Your oral health is directly related to your physical health. ... We have seen many examples of this, and we’re grateful we have been able to share this with our patients,” said Ohlsson.

Ohlsson added staff have seen many patients make drastic changes in their dental hygiene routines — and pass their habits on to their families. Parents who did not take care of their own teeth are now teaching their children how to brush and floss their teeth.

She said staff of Karis are happy to be doing their part to “help make Bradley County a healthier community.” 

Visit for more information on how to become a patient or support the clinic’s mission.



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