Some dental centers for low-income families using gentler touch

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by BYRON HARRIS

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WFAA

Posted on December 20, 2012 at 7:21 PM

DALLAS -- The world looks pretty good to five-year-old Andrea Rodriguez, even if she's sitting in a dentist's chair.

It's because this chair is at the Community Dental Care Center in the Southeast Dallas Health Center. It's one of a dozen Community Dental Care locations in Dallas and Collin County that have one goal: to provide low-income families with quality dental care.

"We give people a chance to have the same kind of quality, compassionate work they have in a private office," said Dr. Esteban Garza.

Some commercial clinics use "papoose boards," where children are strapped down, their heads held, and an entire mouthful of fillings installed in one sitting.

At Community Dental, they know that an experience like that can terrify a child of going to the dentist for life. The method here is quadrant care, where only a quarter of the mouth gets worked on at one time.

"If he or she has cavities," Dr. Garza said, "we'll do them one or two at a time. The lower right or the lower left jaw, or upper right or upper left. And usually over a thirty-to-forty minute period."

Parents bring their kids back because there's less trauma.

"I have no problem saying, 'I'll see you in two weeks,' and they do come," Garza said.

Most of the treatment is paid for with federal and state money, along with donations from thirty community agencies. The goal is to provide a lifetime of care, if it's needed.

"We have patients that are grandmothers or grandfathers who started seeing us at the same age as the kids in here right now," said executive director Paul Hoffmann.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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