The gentlest dentists: Supporting Providence's Specialty Pediatric Dental Clinic

Providence Specialty Pediatric Dental Clinic

For children with special health care needs, going to the dentist can carry special stresses for the family. Will the chairs accommodate them? Will the drills frighten them? Will the dentist understand their medical or emotional needs?

How you can help
The foundation needs to raise $190,000 for the dental clinic. These monies will cover the difference between the cost of service and what is reimbursed by insurance, and will pay for construction and equipment for a third dental suite.
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For these families, Providence Specialty Pediatric Dental Clinic offers excellent care within a safe, welcoming environment. The clinic brings Providence Child Center’s 68 years of experience in caring for children with special needs into the realm of dental care. Housed within Providence Child Center, it serves children ages 1 to 21 years who have medical and behavioral disabilities. These young people may have profound developmental disabilities, autism or may simply be strongly anxious about going to the dentist.

Peter Lax, D.M.D., Monisha Gagneja, B.D.S., and Jennifer Rubel, D.M.D., are specially trained to provide pediatric dentistry for the most fragile patients. With their soft touch and gentle manner, they can turn a child’s fear of the dentist into an experience the child looks forward to.

Because we serve both children with and without special needs, our dental clinic is one of the few in the region that can serve as a dental home. This has been a comfort to Autumn Wrought, whose son Logan has autism and a developmental disability. Logan has had difficulty in the dentist’s chair, so “Dr. Mo” makes his experience fun. She reassures Logan at every step and offers encouragement. When Dr. Mo learns than Logan’s brother, also her patient, isn’t brushing his teeth, she offers to call him at home for a friendly nag.

“They’re a support system,” Autumn says, “and they really cheer us on.” 

Serving an unmet need
Opened in 2010, the clinic was originally designed for residents of the Center for Medically Fragile Children at Providence Child Center, many of whom are at risk for serious oral complications. Many of these children have medical conditions that altered the development of their mouths and jaws, or they may be tube-fed, which leads to tartar build-up and increases the likelihood of bacterial infections.

Since that opening, we discovered the community’s great need for pediatric specialty dental care. We have now expanded the clinic to serve a broad range of children. We have three dentists and two dental chairs, and we’re planning to add a third chair. In 2012, we booked more than 1,300 dental visits. This year we are extending our schedule to four days a week.

Our pediatric dentists can care for children with a wide range of diagnoses, such as:
• Autism spectrum disorder
• Down syndrome
• Cerebral palsy
• Speech and language delays
• Sensory issues
• Appointment anxiety

Besides preventive oral care and tooth restoration, we offer:
• Behavioral guidance
• Nitrous oxide
• Pediatric dental sedation
• Hospital-based dentistry under general anesthesia

We accept most dental insurance plans, Medicaid and private pay on a sliding-fee scale. We work with The Humanitarian Foundation, which provides free dental insurance or free secondary insurance for children who meet certain diagnostic criteria. Providence Child Center Foundation helps cover the difference between the cost of service and what is reimbursed by insurance.

How you can help
The foundation needs to raise $190,000. Ninety percent of our special-needs patients are covered by the Oregon Health Plan or Medicaid. Even with that support, the clinic’s operating budget fell short by $40,000 in 2012. That figure could rise to $50,000 in 2013.

Private contributions will help cover the operating deficit and care for even more of our community’s underserved population. These funds will pay for construction and equipment for a third dental suite to increase the clinic’s capacity to 4,000 visits per year.

Watch how the dental clinic helped the Wrought family