Smiles all around: Delta Dental Clinic opens

Anyone who has had a bad tooth knows the feeling: Excruciating pain prevents you from eating, opening your mouth, sometimes even talking. And it is a helpless feeling.

Most of us respond by scheduling a dentist appoint­ment. But when somebody is homeless, living with tooth pain becomes the norm.

Now, however, oral health will no longer be out of reach for the thousands served by Volunteers of America Michi­gan. This is what was cel­ebrated at the grand opening February 14th of the Delta Dental Clinic at the VOA's homeless service center in Lansing.

"There is a tremendous un­met need, which creates health issues for VOA clients," said Dr. Peter Chiaravalli, who is volunteering his services as director of the clinic. "Neglect impacts health and results in poor nutrition. Infections cause pain and create danger­ous health risks."

Some of the most severe cases involve patients not even being able to open their mouths. In its first few weeks of operation, the staff has seen patients suffering from broken teeth, some so decayed the nerve is exposed. The clinic has been able to alleviate this pain for many already.

The first patient, Diana, had been looking for­ward for the clinic since she heard about the opening a few months ago.

"I'm excited they're here…they're excellent at what they do. I know I'm going to come out of it with a better smile," she said.

The unique approach of the clinic allows dentists to take the patients from diagnosis to treatment, providing consis­tency for a population dealing with uncertainty in their lives.

The clinic was years in the making, with a task force led by Kevin McGraw, chair of the Lansing Committee for the VOA Board of Directors, and including Chiaravalli, Brig Sorber, Nell Kuhnmuench and Ron Simon. Teri Battagl­ieri, Delta Dental Foundation Director, was part of the work from the beginning.

"This was a tireless effort by the VOA family," said Patrick Patterson, Executive Vice President. "This is a per­fect example of why we call this 'The Family That Never Quits.'

"I'd especially like to recognize Dr. Chiaravalli for donating his talent to get this clinic up and running."

The clinic opened next to the Sparrow Medical Group clinic, which provides primary care for people at the shelter. The integration of dental care at VOAMI adds to the com­prehensive services and wrap­around care that the agency provides.

"This [clinic] provides a safety net for people in need," said Dr. Lisa Knowles, another dentist specializing in the restoration and replace­ment of teeth.

With the Delta Dental clinic now open, smiles will be seen a lot more at the VOA.