Niagara Gazette — Health officials in Niagara Falls have made it their mission to help bring smiles — bright, shining smiles — to adults in the region who are in need.
The Mount St. Mary’s Neighborhood Health Center on Ninth Street opened an adult dental clinic this past spring. The clinic uses private, anonymous grant funding to help adults without insurance get oral care.
The idea for the dental clinic came about after staff surveyed patients at the health center, which has met other medical needs since 2010. The survey found 95 percent of patients had gone at least 15 years without dental care. By offering these services, clinic officials hope to improve patients’ physical health and mental state of being.
“These are people in need,” said Sister Grace Marie Dunn, vice president of mission integration for St. Mary’s. “One man hadn’t seen his family for years because his teeth were so bad. That afternoon after coming to the clinic, he went to see them.”
Niagara Falls resident Cynthia Socko is one of about 80 people to utilize the dental clinic thus far. She said going there yielded the result Dunn and her co-workers hoped for.
“Before I went to the dental clinic, I was not able to enjoy my meals. I did not even like to be around people because of my teeth,” she said. “Today, I am smiling, and my friends and family are overwhelmed. I can eat everything, and my teeth look great.”
Patients have to meet income and insurance requirements, Dunn said. They pay what they can as a co-pay, which can be as little as $5.
“We feel that gives them more dignity, to say they’re paying a little bit,” she said. “They just can’t afford to pay the normal $25 co-pay they might be charged elsewhere.”
One patient, Niagara Falls resident Gerald Stevens, saved up several hundred dollars toward his medical care. Once he learned of the clinic, he used that money toward his procedure, which ran well more than $1,000.