By Randy Hatfield
Though somewhat plain, it’s clear when I walk in that it’s a waiting room: the walls are sparsely decorated with colorful posters depicting detailed renderings of teeth, people in long white coats are scurrying back and forth behind the counter and there’s a wide assortment of magazines I’ve never heard of on a table in the corner. Yep, a real dental office.
There’s some paperwork that I need to fill out before my mouth can get examined: dental history, personal information, emergency contacts and so on. It takes me about ten minutes to fill out, and then another five before Tashona Simmons, a hygiene student finishing her first year, comes out to bring me into the back room.
Unlike any of the private dental clinics I’d been to in the past, this clinic is one big undivided room. I can see all the other patients getting worked on, including the “patient” across from me: a set of practice teeth attached to one of the chairs. The room is alive with movement, voices, and the whirring and whishing of instruments.
After Simmons reviewed the dental history I’d filled out earlier, we went through a series of examinations that seemed extensive compared to my usual clinic. She checked my blood pressure, measured my gums, looked for plaque buildup, went over the proper technique for brushing/flossing, and even massaged the underside of my jaw and around my neck to see if my lymph nodes were okay.
A visit at the SCC clinic will take longer than a visit to a professional clinic. My appointment took around two hours, and was a frequent starting and stopping as Simmons completed tasks and waited for approval from one of the instructors. This meant getting two sets of hands and eyes in my mouth as the teacher did a short examination to evaluate Simmons’ observations.
Despite the long wait, the rates seem appropriately adjusted to the time I spent there, and reasonable compared to a private clinic. According to the American Dental Association, the average uninsured cleaning could run a bill of around $80 and a general exam for around $40. The Shoreline Clinic boasts a free exam and a $40 fee for students, faculty and staff which includes 4 Xrays, a cleaning and a fluoride treatment – the regular rate is $55 for non-students and $45 for children.
The clinic also runs a small shop from behind counter and sells home care aids like toothbrushes ($1), floss (free with cleaning, $0.35 otherwise) and stim-u-dent toothpicks ($0.25).
By Randy Hatfield