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 October 2021 Fish for Teeth fixed an estimated 800 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 and San Juan County Health and Community Services has always worked together to make the magic happen in the volunteer dental chair. Starting in 2021 Fish for Teeth continued this cooperative relationship through a stepped-up county-wide program* that increased clinic-days in Friday Harbor and Orcas Island, and also added clinics on Lopez Island.
This program has continued through 2022, and Fish for Teeth will assure the Medical Teams International mobile dental van will be operating in Friday Harbor for sixteen clinic-days, four days each in January, March, October, and December. Fish for Teeth will provide the bulk of the funding to make this happen.
Since our inception in 2007, Fish for Teeth has shouldered most of the volunteer and organizational burden of fixing people’s teeth; 2022 will see the first year with only a financial commitment from Fish for Teeth. The San Juan County Health and Community Services (working with Medical Teams International) will take the lead in organizing the dental van clinics program in Friday Harbor.
Fish for Teeth’s last scheduled fish taco fundraiser was canceled in October 2021 due to differing opinions in the community regarding Covid protocols. After 14 years of the community coming together to make fish tacos, the “coming together” part could not cooperatively happen, so sadly the fish tacos fundraiser came to an end. With no fundraisers slated for the foreseeable future, Fish for Teeth will use reserve funds to pay for the bulk of the San Juan Island commitment of the county-wide program in 2022.
While we are no longer fundraising with fish tacos, Fish for Teeth is still in the tooth-fixing game. In 2023, the cost of bringing the van to Friday Harbor for 16 days will be over $35,000. Through the remainder of 2022 Fish for Teeth will work on creative ways to keep the tooth-fixing happening on San Juan Island, well into the future.
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.
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.
*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.