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SJMO Dental Center Receives Grant
Start Date

St. Joseph Mercy Oakland's Mercy Dental Center Receives

$100,000 Grant From The Jewish Fund

Funds to Provide Dental Services to Uninsured Individuals and People With Disabilities and an Opportunity for Dental Residents to Receive Training in Hospital-Based Dental Care

Pontiac, Mich .—St. Joseph Mercy Oakland (SJMO)'s Mercy Dental Center has received a $100,000 grant from The Jewish Fund to provide dental services to uninsured individuals and people with physical and developmental disabilities and an opportunity for dental graduates to receive training in hospital-based dental care.

The Mercy Dental Center was opened in July 2011, when SJMO re-established its General Practice Residency in Dentistry. The dental center was opened to provide a full range of dental services for patients who lack access to dental care due to medical, physical or financial reasons. Patients who come to the dental center will benefit from being treated in a hospital where all disciplines of medicine and dentistry work together for optimal outcomes. The state-of-the-art teaching facility offers residents and attending dentists the opportunity to provide a broad range of procedures. It is the only nonprofit, hospital-based general practice residency program that provides full service dental treatment for adults in Metropolitan Detroit.

The Jewish Fund was established in 1997 from proceeds of the sale of Sinai Hospital to the Detroit Medical Center. The fund continues the Sinai tradition of assuring excellent and compassionate care for those in need by awarding grants to help vulnerable individuals improve their health.

Nisha K. Yusaf, DDS, is the dental center director and associate program director of the residency program. Craig C. Spangler, DDS, is program director of the residency program and co-chair of the Division of Dentistry and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at SJMO. His background includes treating adults with mental and physical impairments in his private practice and in the operating room. Two residents are currently in the residency program.

According to Dr. Spangler, the dental residents learn how to provide greater numbers and more complex services than they experienced in dental school. For example, they learn how to treat patients with mental and physical impairments, how to manage medically compromised patients and “the special needs of a hospital population—only things they can learn in a hospital setting,” he explained.

He added that the dental residents also interact with SJMO physicians. “The dental residents are available for consultation regarding patients who have dental issues affecting their medical status.”

Dental residents from all over the U.S. are welcome to apply for the residency. The first group of residents came from University of Detroit Mercy, University of Michigan and Ohio State University.

In its first six months of operation, the dental center:

  • Screened 1,045 patients
  • Provided cleanings and preventative care for 200 patients
  • Extracted 300 teeth
  • Provided 114 fillings

From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2012, the dental center treated 200 patients with cleanings or other preventive care, provided 175 fillings or other restorations and extracted 130 teeth.

One of the dental center's first patients was a special needs individual who lived in a group home. His sister was his guardian. The patient's physician was going to put him on medication for behavior issues, but his sister wondered if his teeth might be bothering him. Learning about the dental center from a friend, the patient's sister brought him in for an evaluation. An exam proved the patient had an infected tooth that was not only painful, but also could have been life-threatening. The dental residents and staff dentists operated on the patient and treated his other dental needs. He did not need the medication for behavior issues and his teeth and gums are now healthy.

“We didn't set out to be a toothache clinic,” said Dr. Spangler. “It's not appropriate for our education mission. We're interested in providing patients with services that put them in the best situation to be maintained.” For the residents, it's an opportunity to treat patients as they would in a private practice, he added. About 30 attending dentists have volunteered at the dental center.

Response from the community has been “overwhelming,” said Dr.Yusaf. Most of the patients come from Oakland County. “We're the only program in Metropolitan Detroit that provides dental treatment for adults with special needs under general anesthesia in a safe hospital environment.”

Dr. Spangler adds that The Jewish Fund grant also will allow the residency program to expand to include a third resident.

“We are grateful to be recognized with this generous grant from The Jewish Fund,” said Dr. Spangler. “This will allow us to expand the synergistic missions of service to the community and dental education. Many patients will benefit from the proceeds of this grant, who may not be able to have dental treatment anywhere else.”