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Renovated Rutgers dental clinic treats patients with disabilities

November 17, 2014

By Kimber Solana

Newark, N.J. — It took about a decade to conceptualize, fund and build, but for patients, dentists and dental students at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, the newly renovated Delta Dental of New Jersey Special Care Center was well worth the challenge.

"The special care center is a very unique place," said Dr. Christopher Hughes, chair of the school's Department of Pediatric Dentistry. "We can provide high quality care to patients who have special needs."

The center held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in February to commemorate the renovation that brought much-needed features to the facility, addressing the needs of special care patients.

The center increased its size from six to nine operatories. It doubled the number of wheelchair operatories. To improve privacy for patients, the style of rooms have been changed from open to closed rooms. X-rays are now also available in the rooms, minimizing the need for a patient to be moved from multiple rooms.

"It's a gorgeous facility," said Dr. Ronald Deblinger, an ADA member and chair of the Board of Delta Dental of New Jersey, which made a $1.5 million donation and helped make the renovation possible.

"The center is a state-of-the-art facility," Dr. Deblinger said. "Not only will it provide high quality care but also train new dentists to help better treat patients with disabilities."

The special care center has three full-time dentists, one part time and one hygienist.

"The program combines service with an educational component," said Dr. Evan Spivack, a professor of pediatric dentistry who has worked at the center for more than a decade. Dental students rotate to observe the staff’s work.

The staff members are trained to work with a variety of special needs patients, including those with autism, Alzheimer’s and psychiatric disorders ranging from schizophrenia to severe dental phobia. Geriatric patients, especially those in nursing homes, are also treated at the center.

The center treats more than 4,000 patients annually and draws patients from New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York.

"This center was long overdue," Dr. Deblinger said. "I commend the people at Delta Dental and everyone at the school’s end for making this happen. It’s something we can look on with great pride that we can help the people of New Jersey."