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(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dr. Dale Hibbert (center) gives a 6-year-old 10 fillings, 1 crown and pulls one tooth while anesthesiologist Dr. Julie Dobell (left) monitors his comfort and Zainab Abdulmajeed (right) assists. Donated Dental Services of Salt Lake City provides sedation one day a month for kids where they can get multiple dental needs met all at once.
Nonprofit dental clinic now offers pediatric sedation

Salt Lake Donated Dental Services’ pediatric sedation program comes to the rescue of children with dire dental needs by allowing multiple procedures to be done at once.

First Published Aug 08 2012 08:50 pm • Last Updated Nov 30 2012 11:31 pm

There is nothing quite as heartwarming as a child’s smile. But the tight-lipped, shy kid who struggles to stay on task could actually be hiding a mouthful of distress.

According to a Utah Department of Health (UDOH) survey conducted in the fall of 2010, more than 2,600 first-, second- and third-graders needed urgent dental care due to extensive tooth decay, infection and/or pain — in large part due to a lack of insurance and income to pay for the costly services.

At a glance

Salt Lake Donated Dental Services

Where » 1383 S. 900 West, Suite 128, Salt Lake City.

Free care » Provided on a daily lottery basis to individuals at or below the federal poverty level. To learn more, call 801-983-0345.

Discount care » Clients at 101 to 200 percent of the federal poverty level pay for services at significantly reduced rates. To learn more, call 801-972-2747.

Pediatric sedation » Now available one day per month for low-income children with extensive dental needs.

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In response to that need, Salt Lake Donated Dental Services — a nonprofit clinic that has provided dental care to the underserved of all ages since 1990 — launched its pediatric sedation program in March. It currently operates one day per month.

While using anesthesia significantly adds to the cost of the dental work, the practice makes sense for young children who are in chronic pain and can’t sit still for extended periods of time. Even X-rays are taken during sedation.

"The dentist needs them immobile so he can open their mouths and see what the problems are," said Julie Dobell, an anesthesiologist who totes portable equipment to Salt Lake Donated Dental’s offices to perform her job.

Dobell described another benefit to children getting multiple tooth repairs done in one quick session: "They don’t spend the rest of their lives fearing the dentist."

So far, 18 children have received $32,930 worth of sedation and dental treatment, including 44 fillings, 82 crowns, 31 extractions, 18 cleanings, 13 sealants and 12 fluoride varnishes.

Grateful patients » "I thank God for these services," Iraqi refugee Raad Alsaedi said last week via Nora Abjulmajeed, the clinic receptionist who interpreted his soft-spoken Arabic. "I appreciate everything they are doing."

Alsaedi’s youngest son, 6-year-old Hussien, was under anesthesia at the time and within the hour, dentist Dale Hibbert had filled nine cavities, installed one stainless steel crown and extracted two teeth. Soon Alsaedi, a musician who is currently unemployed, was helping to wake his son and take him home.

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Hibbert’s regular dental office is in Layton, but for a decade he has volunteered his time and talents to Salt Lake Donated Dental.

"I think what I enjoy most is the gratitude from the patients," Hibbert said.

Many of the children have been referred to the sedation program by SLCAP Head Start, which serves children up to 5 years old who live in families with incomes at or below the federal poverty level — about $23,000 a year for a family of four. The early childhood development program can accept children with family incomes up to 125 percent of that threshold.

"Their new sedation program has allowed us to cover the cost for more of our children and families," said Jennifer Godfrey, health manager for SLCAP Head Start, "and its been a huge asset to our children and our agency."

Godfrey has witnessed the transformation in kids before and after they’ve had their dental needs addressed.

"We see everything from children being happier, eating more, and being more able and willing to learn because they’re no longer in pain," Godfrey said. "The change is often incredible."

Jacobi Vargas was next in line following Hussien Alsaedi’s session last week and Dobell initially put the 4-year-old to sleep using anesthetic gas, then quickly installed an intravenous drip to maintain the slumber. The intravenous method wears off more quickly than the gas and has fewer side effects, Dobell noted.

"They’ll be able to go home and have a better day afterward," Dobell said, "instead of spending the whole day recovering."

Young Vargas, who received one filling and 17 crowns along with a cleaning and fluoride varnish, is apt to have a better life as well.

"If you’re in pain, you can’t be eating nutritiously. And that affects the whole body," said Bobbi Lord, development director for Salt Lake Donated Dental.

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