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Burb's Eye View: Dental clinic puts a smile on kids' faces

February 12, 2013|By Bryan Mahoney
  • Nathaniel Batte, 8, gets a look at his molars with some new fashion glasses courtesy of his dentist.
Nathaniel Batte, 8, gets a look at his molars with some… (Courtesy of Bryan…)

Nathaniel Batte leans back in his chair and inspects his purplish mouth through his newly acquired sunglasses. Holding the hand mirror a few inches from his face, the 8-year-old likes what he sees so far.

His hygienist, however, isn't as happy with the prognosis.

“That purple means bacteria,” Marsha Center tells him. “That's our enemy, right?”

They'll have a talk later about proper brushing techniques and avoiding the worst things for Nathaniel's teeth: Coke and Cheetos. At this office that conversation will last as long as it takes — patients sometimes will be in the dentist's chair for an hour or two, hoping that if they're good they'll get a shot at the overflowing chest of toys nearby.

The children and parents who visit the Kids' Community Dental Clinic on Elmwood Avenue in Burbank receive an education by the time they leave. Volunteer hygienists and dentists at the clinic teach prevention and proper oral care to some 800 kids a year plus another 5,000 in schools, and for a small fee ensure these children's teeth last their lifetimes.

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“We have a mission — it's not just the business end of dentistry. It's all those kids who fall through the cracks,” said Ana Gomez, a dental assistant at the clinic.

This month the clinic is taking its mission to everyone under age 18. It will offer free dental screenings every weekday except Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The clinic hopes to stop problems in children's teeth before they start.

“In our culture people want whitening, they want braces, but they don't work on the decay,” said Dale Gorman, the clinic's executive director.

Gorman has run the program since 2008. She coordinates the volunteer hygienists and about 30 area dentists who perform dental work at the Elmwood facility or conduct screenings at schools.

The clinic began in the basement of Providence St. Joseph Medical Center to help families with dental emergencies. Today it operates from a bright yellow building behind McKinley Elementary, serving low-income families from Burbank and surrounding areas.

For about $15 families can bring kids to the clinic, a dentists' office where kids actually want to hang out. Artists from Cartoon Network have painted every door with characters from their shows, and the staff spends as long as it takes to get their patients comfortable.

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