Commercial fishermen and dental professionals working together
have provided 10 years of dental services for those who
could otherwise not afford care in the San Juan Islands.
Still Going strong
Fish For Teeth is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit started by commercial fisherman Matt Marinkovich in 2007 with intentions to “fix peoples teeth.” From January 2012 through May 2020 Fish for Teeth fixed an estimated 700 people’s teeth, with a 100% volunteer team and self-generated funds. “Team Taco” prepared 350 fish tacos three times a year, funding the Medical Teams International mobile dental van to visit San Juan Island. From there “Team Tooth” scheduled the patients, then local volunteer dental professionals worked their magic and created healthy teeth to those who could otherwise not afford the care.
Fish for Teeth has always been an organization committed to independence from government assistance and red tape, and is focused on finding the most sensible and efficient solution for islanders who cannot afford dental care. It’s expensive to live on these islands, and we believe Islanders shouldn’t have to decide between paying rent or living with a toothache. Our priority is to provide service without an income parameter, and we will only support programs which meet that qualification.
Since 2020 the Mobile Dental Van has been brought to Friday Harbor through a grant procured by the San Juan County Health and Community Services. The grant works with San Juan County and MTI, bringing the van four times a year, for four-day dental clinics. Fish for Teeth provided the bulk of the funding for San Juan Island in 2021-22, and the San Juan Island Community Foundation and Rotary provided funding to support this grant in 2023. This 3-year grant ends in 2023, and is offered through the North Sound Accountable Communities of Health (ACH) and Arcora Foundation.*
Currently Fish for Teeth is anticipating the dental need after the grant ends in 2023. The cost of the MTI Mobile Dental Van has tripled since Fish for Teeth first sponsored it in 2012, and housing for any non-local dentists and the dental van staff have increased also. Fish for Teeth is utilizing creative thinking and local resources to come up with a more streamlined solution that will increase the through-put of patients while reducing the cost.
Fish for Teeth has not been creating fish tacos to fund our contributions supporting the grant, but instead has used reserve funds over the last couple years. With the creation of our new San Juan Island dental plan, which involves more local resources, we will once again tap the Taco Team (which is comprised of many Kiwanis volunteers!) to land these tasty and nutritious flavor-bombs on your plate.
With Fish Tacos will also come a fresh “ask” from those in the community who have the financial resources to help our efforts be a success. In the past the “individual contributions” line made the whole Fish Taco-to-Dental Van equation balance out on the spread sheet. We feel that when Fish for Teeth has the plan developed and we know our goal, the community will be able to step up and help make it happen.
Fish for Teeth has always been hands-on and resourceful in creating programs that work towards our mission. We will stick to that model in all of our endeavors.
If you are excited by our efforts and good works, please consider a donation of support today, and we’ll be that far ahead of the curve when we finalize our plan for the future.
*Countywide grant from the North Sound Accountable Communities of Health (ACH) Oral Health Local Impact Network (LIN), which is funded by Arcora. Other contributors to this program are Medical Teams International, Orcas Island Community Foundation, and the Lopez Island Family Resource Center.