For 59-year-old Septima Hodges, a trip to the dentist wasn’t a priority for most of her life. It was when she was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2011 that the regularity of her dental visits became more important than ever.
As a result of her battle with kidney disease, her mouth became infected and its deterioration was adversely affecting her already-worsening kidneys. It was imperative that she pursued dental care and clearance so that she could be placed on the transplant list. However, after several visits to more traditional dentists, Hodges learned she was in need of specialty services that would take her current medical condition into special consideration.
In July 2013, ASDOH opened the Dr. Rick Workman Advanced Care Clinic in The Center for Advanced Oral Health on ATSU’s Arizona campus. This 10,959-square-foot oral healthcare clinic is Arizona’s first to offer the expertise and equipment necessary to treat patients with complex dental needs, including patients with medical conditions like cancer, hemophilia, and in Hodges’ case, kidney disease.
The clinic features state-of-the-art equipment and technology, including 37 dental operatories, four private suites, and a bariatric suite for patients who weigh more than 350 pounds.
WEB EXCLUSIVE: Learn more about the Advanced Care Clinic and The Center, plus see exclusive photos from Hodges’ latest dental check-up.
The concept for the clinic developed when Maureen Romer, DDS, MPA, associate dean, post-doctoral education, ASDOH, and a team of University healthcare professionals recognized the need surrounding those with highly complex medical and dental conditions and those with disabilities. For patients with developmental disabilities, a trip to the dentist can be perplexing and exhausting.
“We have fluorescent lighting, there’s noise, all these strange machines, and there’s suctions and there’s water,” says Dr. Romer. “It’s sensory overload for pretty much everyone, but for people with developmental disabilities like autism, it’s a really intense sensory overload, and I think dentists need to see that.”
Until now, some patients with complex medical conditions and special needs had to go outside the state to receive required care, while others received no care at all.
“Whether a patient is socioeconomically underprivileged or fiscally stable, the resources weren’t there. That lack of good oral care puts their health at more risk,” says Dr. Romer.
To bridge the gap on a broader scale, the clinic was designed with a long-term solution in mind. The clinic offers the Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency program, which equips practicing oral healthcare providers with the knowledge to treat those with complicated or medical oral healthcare needs. Dr. Romer, who also directs The Center for Advanced Oral Health, is hopeful the one-year certificate program will gain momentum in the dental community so patients like Hodges will have easier access to dental care.
Hodges has been back to the clinic five times since she underwent a successful kidney transplant and looks forward to coming in for regular check-ups.
Says Hodges, “You have to be an advocate for yourself, and you have to be willing to seek treatment.”