UT Dental Branch Clinic Offers Expert Care for Special Needs Patients
Despite the immense size of the Texas Medical Center and its numerous options for patients, Allen Joseph has only one place to receive dental care: the Medically Complex Patient Clinic of The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston.
However, after this procedure, speech and swallowing can be impaired, therefore ruling out any “normal” dental care options. The Medically Complex Patient Clinic at the UT Dental Branch, 6516 M.D. Anderson Blvd., provides the advanced care Joseph requires.
“Houston is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country, yet there is a paucity of dental services for patients with special needs,” says Kishore Shetty, D.D.S., director of the clinic and associate professor of restorative dentistry and diagnostic sciences. “Oral health is linked to a number of systemic diseases, such as diabetes, lung and heart disease. The lack of dental care in medically compromised patients produces powerful social and economic consequences.”
The clinic is a one-stop dental care facility equipped for the most complicated patient cases. The clinic is designed with special medical monitoring systems and includes areas customized for patients who have mobility issues and are unable to sit in the dental chairs during treatment.
“This is the only clinic in Houston that caters to special patients of this magnitude,” Shetty says. “A large number of special-needs patients have very limited income for addressing their oral diseases and disfigurements.”
Shetty emphasizes that, since the clinic is a part of the dental school’s student education process, these special services are offered at reduced costs similar to other clinics at the UT Dental Branch.
“The clinic deals with patients who have a variety of issues, externally as well as internally, such as diabetes, hepatitis C and HIV,” says Dental Assistant III Cheryl Miller, who has been with the dental school for 27 years. “When you are dealing with this type of patient, you have no choice but to do what needs to be done.”
Because the complex treatment options offered by the clinic are so unique, there is an average 8-to 12-month waiting list to become a patient.
For 72-year-old Gloria Rodriguez, it is worth the wait. “I’ve been coming to UT dental school clinics since I was 9 years old when the Medical Center location didn’t yet exist,” Rodriguez says. “I had breast cancer in 2002, and since then I’ve been coming to the medically complex clinic inside the dental school.”
Shetty says that, once a patient is admitted into the medically complex clinic, the clinic will work with the patients to schedule regular appointments. He adds that patient visit may take several hours, since the dental students are training during the process.
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