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VOL. 126 | NO. 42 | Wednesday, March 2, 2011

CCHS Opens Binghampton Dental Clinic

By Aisling Maki

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Christ Community Health Services on Tuesday opened its state-of-the-art, $1.4 million, 5,000-square-foot dental facility at 2953 Broad Ave. in the heart of Memphis’ Binghampton neighborhood.

Known as Broad Avenue Dental Center, the clinic provides affordable, high-quality pediatric and adult dental services on a sliding payment scale primarily to low-income residents of Binghampton, Nutbush, Mitchell Heights and Berclair.

The newly opened center is one of three dental facilities – the others are located in Hickory Hill and Southwest Memphis – operated by Christ Community Health Services, a faith-based organization that provides affordable, quality health care to the city’s medically underserved communities.

The nonprofit also operates five health centers – including one at 2861 Broad Ave. – full-service pharmacies and a mobile medical van for the homeless, providing services that include primary care, obstetrics and gynecology, HIV care management, prenatal and parenting classes, social work, dentistry, pharmacy and outreach programs.

“What we’ve come to understand over the past few years as we’ve come to provide dental care is that, for people who are low-income or uninsured, dental care is really more difficult to obtain and access than medical care,” said Burt Waller, CCHS executive director. “Here in Memphis, there are a lot of initiatives designed to try and provide access to medical care for low-income people, but there’s not very many initiatives to provide dental care and yet dental care is very important. People’s oral health is predictive of their overall health.”

The dental center was much smaller in its previous incarnation as the Chickasaw Dental Center, located in a shopping center at 2877 Poplar Ave. That four-chair center was closed and the facility was relocated to the building that formerly housed the CCHS administrative offices, which have since relocated to 2595 Central Ave.

“We needed the expansion, but we already had the medical facility down the street and were serving the people of Binghampton at the location on Poplar,” said Dr. Orpheus Triplett, CCHS Dental Director. “It was an effort to be in the community as well as to expand.”

The building on Broad was gutted to the four outside walls and completely renovated through funds allocated to CCHS through the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which also enabled CCHS to open its Hickory Hill Dental Center at 5366 Winchester Road in July.

The Broad Avenue facility’s equipment and furnishings were donated through philanthropic support, with the largest single donor being the Assisi Foundation of Memphis.

“All of our facilities and services are designed to be financially self-sustaining in terms of their operations,” said Waller. “What we lack with the mix of patients we serve and the monies we collect is the ability to generate capital for expansion into new facilities. This is an excellent example of us combining some federal funds with local philanthropic funds to develop a facility that, once operational, will be able to sustain itself without significant philanthropic support. That’s the model we follow for all of our services.”

The high-tech Broad Avenue Dental Center, which, like all CCHS centers, uses electronic health records, features seven open-bay chairs for cleanings, two private treatment/operatory rooms, x-ray areas, a laboratory and a sterilization room. Brightly colored walls adorned with Memphis-themed artwork serve to make the center attractive, welcoming and family-friendly.

The facility, staffed by two full-time dentists, eight rotating advanced education in general dentistry residents from UT Health Science Center, and a team of clerical and support staff, also features a classroom, which will be used to educate child visitors and their parents from daycares, Head Start programs and elementary schools regarding proper oral health and hygiene.

CCHS also provides outreach in the form of on-site pediatric dental exams and by attending parent meetings at Shelby County Head Start centers.

Triplett said chronic tooth pain can affect a child’s speech, behavior, personality and ability to focus on schoolwork.

Many parents unknowingly do things that jeopardize their child’s dental health, such as putting young children to bed sucking on baby bottles filled with juices.

“People will ask why their baby’s teeth are decaying,” said Triplett. “Not only is it important to come to the dentist for treatment; it’s important to come to the dentist for education. If we can actually develop a relationship with a family and educate the parent while talking about the health of the child, that helps us to accomplish our goal of getting them to care for their teeth, to come to the dentist and pass those habits on to their own children.”

And for adults, the inability to chew adequately can affect overall health by placing an added burden on the digestive system. For immediate relief, people will consume a diet of soft, carbohydrate- and sugar-rich foods and rely on over-the-counter digestive aids, a pattern that can culminate in a variety of health issues, particularly for individuals with condition such as diabetes and hypertension.

Although CCHS dental centers are targeted towards low-income and uninsured individuals, Triplett said the facilities also receive a number of insured patients pleased with the facilities and care provided.

“You won’t find higher-quality treatment in this city,” Triplett said.

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