Last week the people we support at Living Well, as well as our employees, were offered appointments at a unique dental pop-up located at our offices in Mendota Heights. The office was transformed because people living with disabilities often face long waits to get into dental clinics as many offices either do not accept Medical Assistance or have a long wait list for patients whose coverage is tied to government benefits. And because staff often have a hard time getting to appointments during workdays, they were offered appointments as well. This three-day dental clinic was made possible by a generous grant that was put together by our development team after learning more about the hardship of dental care for people with disabilities.

Hard to believe this open office area generally used for volunteer meal making was transformed into a dental office.

The challenges people with intellectual and developmental disabilities sometimes face in respect to oral health made access to a pop-up dental clinic in a known environment even clearer. Reliance on caregivers to complete cares like brushing teeth, flossing teeth, and denture cares is an added layer to oral care. An inability by some to rinse their mouth or utilize mouthwash, and medications that people take that can affect the condition of their gums and teeth can both make conditions more prevalent. And of course, anxiety and sometimes behavior escalation related to procedures, previous trauma, sensory stimuli, unfamiliar environments, new people providing care, and possible pain can all make a trip to a dentist hard even if an appointment is procured.

Cindy from Carmen waiting for her appointment.

What did our staff have to say about the ease of the experience? Alexis Santana, Program Manager at Carmen, said, “The dental pop up was very convenient for both the people we serve and for our staff, to be able to just go right down the street from our house and not be put on a long waiting list was very nice. Not only just the positive of it being quick and close by but being able to bring people to the office where there are a lot of familiar faces around was also a positive and helped bring down the anxiety and nervousness that appointments bring to the people we serve.”

Jena getting prepped for her cleaning.

Jena Joseph, HR Generalist, brought her daughters in for appointments after school and had this to say, “The clinic was so helpful with our busy schedule, I am so thankful my girls were able to get in and get their exams done as well. The Jet Dental team was kind, informative and comforting when completing each of our exams; explaining each step of the process and the tool used. Not only did the team take time to explain what a specific tool was used for, but they would explain what you could anticipate hearing and feeling in each step of the examination. The girls were compelled to make thank you cards for the team because they felt so comfortable with them. They even got electric toothbrushes after their exam!”

This clinic, put on by Jet Dental, was the first at Living Well, and we plan to have three more over the span of two years. Planning was months in the making and totally worth the effort, as many people left with happy smiles, and employees were able to check appointments off their work and personal to-do lists.

We are so excited to have had the opportunity to transform our basement into a dentist’s office for three days. Stay tuned for more info on this exciting program in November when we host the second clinic. It truly is amazing what is made possible with financial support from foundations, businesses, families and individuals.


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