St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care has been awarded a $125,000 grant from Delta Dental of Wisconsin Foundation to support its Gardetto Family Community Dental Clinic. St. Ann Center will receive an additional $50,000 contingent upon finding matching gifts from new donors. The clinic is the only one in Wisconsin designed exclusively to serve people with severe physical and/or cognitive disabilities.
The unique three-chair dental clinic opened in August 2016 at St. Ann Center’s Bucyrus Campus, 2450 W. North Ave. Since then, the facility has provided dental care to 394 people whose disabilities prevent them from being treated in a standard private practice clinic. St. Ann Center, which has drawn national attention for its intergenerational model, provides child and adult day care and other community services at the Bucyrus Campus and its Stein Campus on Milwaukee’s south side.
“The day-to-day operational costs to run a special needs dental clinic are steep, and Medicaid fees we receive do not come close to covering these expenses,” said Dr. Russ Dunkel D.D.S., Dental Clinic Director. “This generous donation from Delta Dental will allow us to provide vastly needed dental care for patients with special needs who previously had nowhere else to go. Some families travel up to five hours to visit our clinic.”
The clinic was especially designed with the special needs of its patients in mind. Halls, doorways and treatment rooms are spacious, allowing for wheelchairs and scooters to maneuver and seating for a parent or other caregiver. An adjustable-height panoramic X-ray machine can be lowered to wheelchair level. One treatment room is designated as a quiet room, away from clinic traffic, for noise-sensitive patients.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services 2010 Burden of Oral Disease in the State of Wisconsin, individuals with disabilities have “significantly higher rates of poor oral hygiene and needs for periodontal disease treatment than the general public.” Many who live with disabilities haven’t visited a dentist in years because their caregivers have been unable to find a provider equipped to treat them or who accept Medicaid.
In order to be seen at the clinic, patients need a referral from a dentist or medical doctor and must be a resident of Wisconsin. The clinic sees patients with conditions including Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, autism and seizure disorders, to name a few. Many use wheelchairs, others are unable to hold their head still or keep their mouth open, some are afraid of the lights, sounds and touch associated with a typical dental visit and require prescription sedation and nitrous oxide.
“Dental services for individuals with special healthcare needs is in critically short supply due to many barriers,” said Ann Boson, executive director of Delta Dental of Wisconsin Foundation. “Our goal with this grant is to strengthen St. Ann Center’s ability to provide comprehensive dental care to one of our state’s most vulnerable populations and help encourage new donors to this partnership.”
St. Ann Center hopes to create a dental home for clients where staff can maintain a rapport and consistent care from early childhood through their elderly years.
If you’re interested in more information about the Gardetto Family Community Dental Clinic, call 414-210-2440. To donate toward the matching grant, contact John Jansen, St. Ann Center’s vice president of grants and community development, at 414-977-5031.