Low-cost services for smiles - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Low-cost services for smiles

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Posted: Saturday, March 11, 2006 5:40 am | Updated: 4:17 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Bryan Martinez was terrified.

The 4-year-old was convinced his visit to a new Scottsdale dental clinic was going to result in all of his teeth being pried out. His time in the chair was spent with tears running down his face.

Luckily, Bryan escaped the visit with just a cleaning and was happily playing with his race car toothbrush by the time he left, teeth intact.

Bryan was one of the first patients at a Scottsdale dental clinic aimed to help families with low incomes that lack health insurance.

The services are for children up to age 19; the cost, about $10 a visit. The clinic opened Friday at the Paiute Neighborhood Center, 6535 E. Osborn Road. It’s part of an outreach program run by the community health services department of Scottsdale Healthcare.

Although the program has provided low-cost medical services in Scottsdale since 1997, it could not sufficiently meet the families’ dental needs, said Sharon Heuer of Scottsdale Healthcare.

“The kids were really not getting ahead,” she said. “They had no follow-up care.”

The outreach program was able to get dental organizations and local dentists to donate about $50,000 worth of supplies and equipment to the clinic. Scottsdale Healthcare will pay for everything else, including the clinic’s small staff.

“We’re being held up by angels while flying by the seat of our pants,” said Micki Banks, the clinic’s lead dental hygienist. “It’s been one miracle after another.”

Banks will perform most of the cleaning and screening work at the clinic. Staff members hope to hire a dentist in the next month who would come in about every two weeks and handle some of the more serious cases, such as tooth decay.

The clinic will focus on educating parents on the importance of brushing and regular cleanings — for themselves and for their children.

Scottsdale Healthcare plans to open another clinic at the other neighborhood outreach branch, at Palomino Elementary School, in a few months. The program’s goal is to see children early and often, and produce a 50 percent reduction in the prevalence of tooth decay after two years, Banks said.

“We want it to be a fun place for kids to come,” she said. “We want them to feel safe and like coming, and like us taking care of their teeth.”

To learn more

The low-cost dental clinic is open Mondays and Fridays at the Paiute Neighborhood Center, 6535 E. Osborn Road. Families must qualify for the services through the outreach program at (480) 882-4317.

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