Cierra Washington was all smiles after recently visiting a local dental clinic in the Englewood community on the South Side.
“He (the dentist) said every thing looks good and that I should keeping brushing and flossing my teeth,” the seven year-old told pingroof.com. “Some kids don’t like coming to the dentist but I do because he gives me gifts when I am done.”
And when you consider the gun violence children living in the nationally known Englewood community on Chicago’s South Side have to endure each year, it is nice to know that there is place, besides school and church, that brings a smile to their faces, said Derek Michaels, manager of Outreach Marketing for Chicago’s St. Bernard Hospital at 326 W. 64th St.
For so long the Englewood community has been known for such things as crime, unemployment and poor economic conditions for its residents, who are predominately black, according to census data.
But one hidden gem about the community is its pediatric, dental clinic at St. Bernard Hospital. The medical institution has been a part of Englewood since it opened in 1904.
And the five year-old dental clinic, which sees youth ages 18 years old and under, is one of three pediatric dental clinics in the city that treats special needs children, such as those with autism. The other two dental clinics are located at the University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center and Illinois Masonic Medical Center, both on the city’s West Side.
The Director of the Department of Dental Services at St. Bernard is Dr. Vipul Singhal, who has heads up a predominately Black staff including seven dentists.
“I have been a dentist for 18 years but my last five here at St. Bernard have been the most rewarding,” Singhal said. “We see on average between 25 to 30 patients a day. About 92 percent of our patients (which include parents) are black. And most of the children we see come from low-income households whose parents either have no dental insurance or are covered by Medicaid.”
Medicaid is a government-sponsored health program for people with low incomes and resources. People served by Medicaid are adults, their children and people with certain disabilities.
Among some of the common problems Singhal sees when examining children is cavities resulting from not brushing their teeth enough and eating too much candy. When this occurs he recommends a filling or if the cavity is too large for a filling, he then recommends a root canal.
“I never recommend tooth extraction unless it is a last resort. In the long run pulling a tooth out will cost more as time goes on,” he added. “I have had to do a lot of root canals on children. But I try to educate parents about dental hygiene and how they can help their children do the same.”
Prices at the dental clinic are competitive to other centers, according to Singhal, who charges $45 for a ‘simple’ tooth extraction and $15 for cleanings. And even if a child comes in and do not have any insurance or money to pay the dental clinic will still treat the child.
Seeing so many children though sometimes brings unwanted pain to dentists, explained Singhal.
“There have been times when I noticed signs of physical abuse. I have seen scars and bruises on children and sometimes they tell me what their parents have done to them and it breaks my heart,” he said. “By law, I am required to report this to DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) and I do.”
There is no abuse to report for 15 year-old John Lions though.
The teenager was not only born at St. Bernard Hospital but lives in the Englewood community too.
“The care here is excellent. I would recommend this place to anyone looking for a good dentist for their children,” Lions said.
His mom, Angela Lions, was also born at St. Bernard and agreed with him.
“I come here too and they take very good care of me,” she added.
Other patients seem to agree as well.
Every patient is asked to fill out a survey when he or she arrives and when he or she leaves the clinic. pingroof.com reviewed the surveys and based on its analysis, 99 percent said they were satisfied with the quality of care they received and 100 percent said they would recommend the dental center.
The center is open Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information or to make an appointment, call the center at 773-962-3976 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.