Exams That Don’t Bite – Care That Won’t Put A Dent(-Al) In Your Budget

Shoreline’s dental program is nationally award-winning, providing care to the SCC community, and a learning experience that everyone can be a part of.

I hadn’t been to the dentist for many years, so I was a bit nervous going to my appointment at the SCC dental clinic. Asa Pendergrast, my hygienist, was very reassuring. He was friendly, and talked me through the examinations, putting me at ease.

A second-year student in the SCC dental program, Asa comes from a family of dentists in Alaska. When the University of Alaska Fairbanks cut their dental program, he made his way to Shoreline.

He’s worked with people who have severe anxiety about going to the dentist. And I had three teeth that needed some serious work.

“I’ll be honest with you, you’ve got some needs,” Asa said. “I’m glad you came in.”

This combination of warmth and truth was just what I needed.

I didn’t have insurance for a couple years, but aside from that, I have no excuse for not flossing enough. Even now that I have insurance, it’s easier to go to the campus clinic.

“We’re convenient here on campus, for students,” said Patsy Duggan, the patient services coordinator.

It’s also very affordable. The clinic only takes state Apple Health insurance, the Washington branch of Obamacare, for those with a low-income or who can’t get insurance through their employer, but basic exams and cleanings are reasonably priced. For two appointments, including a cleaning, I’ll only be paying $50.

The clinic has an open floor plan to make learning easier, meaning the dentist chairs are all in one room and the teaching doctors move around to sign off on the students’  work. Appointments can last two to four hours, which gives time for first-year students to help out and observe, and plenty of time to consult with the teaching doctors to make sure everything’s done right.

A helpful part of having several students and teachers talking about your care is knowing what’s happening. One of the most nerve- wracking parts of going to the dentist is hearing “Hmmm… Oh, my!” and not being able to ask what’s wrong because you can’t talk with implements in your mouth.

The open area in the clinic can actually help patients with anxiety. With 24 students in each class and around 20 patients at a time, “you’re never alone,” Duggan said. “It’s a different setting for people who don’t like to go to the dentist.”

You can even bring a friend or relative to make things easier.

After the full exam, I’ve learned a lot about the health of my teeth and gums. It’s one thing to be told to floss, but learning why you should really helps. If you’ve been putting off your checkup, give them a try. This approach may be just what you need.

By FORREST BAUM, Staff Writer