A grant from the Western New York Foundation has made it possible for The Resource Center to open and outfit a new dental operatory at its East Second Street location.
Members of administration from The Resource Center, as well as local elected officials and their representatives were on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
“Dental disease, when it’s left untreated, can not only lead to other disease, but it can exacerbate existing diseases,” said Steve Riczker, director of health services at The Resource Center. “Not only do you have tooth pain, tooth loss or infection, it can actually worsen conditions such as diabetes and heart issues. Dental care is extremely important. It’s not just about a nice smile, it’s about your overall health. About 60 percent of all kids have some form of dental disease, whether it’s cavities or other issues, and that’s pretty significant. Those numbers are just for the general population – when you look at the ‘safety net’ population that we typically serve here, the numbers are even higher than that.”
According to Riczker, State Sen. Cathy Young recently sponsored a bill called “Dentists Across New York,” which will alleviate the issue by expanding the “Doctors Across New York” program and enabling dentists to be recruited and receive incentives to work in communities with dentist shortfalls such as Jamestown.
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“Children are severely affected by the sparseness of dentists. According to the Pew Foundation, dental care is the single greatest unmet need for health services among children, with tooth decay affecting nearly 60 percent of kids,” said Young. “That percentage spikes even higher in places where there are barriers to receiving care. The solution is to create innovative initiatives that attract dental professionals to areas of need. Dentists Across New York would give the state Department of Health discretionary authority to include dentists in the existing Doctors Across New York initiative.”
According to the New York State Department of Health, about 24 counties, most of them rural, have emerging dentist shortages, with only one dentist for every 3,000 people. The Health Department estimates that the state needs an additional 371 dentists to fill the gaps. A study coordinated by the Department of Health’s Bureau of Dental Health concluded the number of dentists in the state declined from 16,872 in 1997 to 15,291 in 2006.
“Our legislation would assist dentists with education loan repayments in exchange for committing to practice for five years in an underserved area,” said Young. “By increasing access to oral care, it will greatly enhance prevention, early diagnosis and intervention, halting or slowing the progress of most dental diseases. It literally can help save people’s health, and even their lives.”
The Western New York Foundation supplied The Resource Center with the money necessary to equip an entire dental operatory, which can be quite expensive.
“It was a $30,000 grant that allowed us to purchase a chair and all of the equipment needed to provide dental services,” said Riczker. “More importantly, though, it allowed us an expansion where we could now hire an additional dentist.”
The new operatory will reduce wait times for dental services and improve The Resource Center’s ability to serve patients, while also allowing for up to 3,500 additional dental visits per year at the East Second Street location. The Resource Center currently schedules between 12,000-13,000 visits per year for its dental services, which serves roughly 4,300 residents actively on an annual basis.
“Being a retired dentist, I’m of course very interested in the dental clinic,” said Harry Glatz. “To see the facilities that they have here, along with the modern techniques and materials is exciting for me. I congratulate them for all that they’re doing for the community, and as a parent of one of the people that they serve, I want to thank them for all of the people that are served by the resource center.”
The clinic, which was originally opened in 1984 in downtown Jamestown, and shortly thereafter we moved to its current location, was opened because of a shortage of dental services in the Jamestown area. Since that time, the practice has continued to grow. In 1984, The Resource Center had one dentist on staff, but it currently has four – Dr. Anne Shear, Dr. Jill Wierchowski, Dr. Doug Lawson, and the newest addition to its team, Dr. Timothy Theisen.
“I’d really like to thank the staff for operating this clinic,” said Denise Jones, associate executive director of The Resource Center. “We know we’re offering a vital service here, but we have continued to struggle financially. In terms of capital space, we know that we need more space, and we do have plans to expand further into this facility. It’s critical that we get the community’s support.”
Jones also read a letter from Beth Gosch, WNY Foundation executive director, which praised The Resource Center for its hard work and excellent patient care.
“The Resource Center is a strong organization impacting the quality of life for its constituents,” said Gosch. “We were impressed with the respectful manner in which it treats clients. (The Resource Center) did a good job of substantiating the need for our support in a rural community, and we hope that our support will improve its capacity to help people and strengthen the rural safety net system, realizing that good preventive care up front will save a myriad of costs down the road. (The Resource Center) has been entrepreneurial in its approach to funding and service delivery, and we rank it as one of the strongest human service agencies, if not the strongest, in the area.”
According to Riczker, there are plans to expand dental services, as well as the primary care practice in the future, all in order to better serve the community.
“We really appreciate having the new operatory,” said Dr. Anne Shear, DDS. “It really came just in time. We found out that one of the long-term dentists in the area has retired, and we’ve been getting a large number of phone calls from his patients, besides the phone calls that we normally receive. This is really a great thing that the WNY Foundation has done for us, and we really appreciate it.”
Jacqueline Chiarot, a representative from U.S. Rep. Tom Reed’s office, was also on hand at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to present Steve Riczker with a certificate of recognition for the services that The Resource Center provides to its patients.
“Good dental hygiene is about good self-esteem, personal advancement, the ability to make a good impression when someone is going for a job interview or helping customers,” said Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I Chautauqua County. “It’s a full range of benefits for good dental practice that goes well beyond just personal health. It encompasses personal relationships and personal opportunities, so it’s really exciting to see this practice grow and expand.”
“The program may look small here, but we’re really meeting an important need in the community,” said Riczker.
The Resource Center Dental Services is located at 896 E. Second St. in Jamestown, and is currently accepting new patients. They also have an office in Dunkirk. For more information, call 661-1431.