Tulsa's Small Smiles Dental Clinic keeping busy

Monday, September 27th 2004, 10:32 am
By: News On 6

A dentist visit can be scary for kids. But for parents, paying for the check-up can be a nightmare.

News on 6 reporter Omar Villafranca tells us about a new Tulsa clinic that's easing the pain for needy families.

The chairs at Small Smiles Dental Clinic are packed with little mouths needing attention. Ages range from 21 years old to as young as 28 days. Dr. Frank Sommer: "We rarely see them that young, but occasionally we see children that are six months, 12 months. We like to see them just to counsel the moms on getting them off the bottle and how to take care of the mouth."

Small Smiles has been open for a little more than a month, but the three full-time doctors say they've already seen 1,500 children. Since the clinic only services patients covered by Medicaid, doctors say many of the families they help are strapped for cash and their teeth pay the price. "We do have some problem children. There are some children that have. I call it parental abuse in that they've been allowed to not take care of their teeth. They have a lot of decay problems and it's difficult for us."

While some kids are scared of the dentist and their tools, some Spanish speaking parents are scared of the language barrier. Doctors estimate that one-fourth of their patients speak only Spanish. That keeps Marisol Burbano busy setting up appointments and easing any fears. "I just make them feel comfortable. First of all, the barrier, the language barrier is completely forgotten because they are understood and feel, you know. I make them feel like family. I make them feel like this is a place where we're really just interested in helping their children.”

And with more than 2,000 appointments booked to date, Small Smiles expects to help more than 26,000 needy mouths this year.

Tulsa's Small Smiles Clinic was the 20th opened in the US by a Colorado-based FORBA, Incorporated. The company plans to open another clinic in Oklahoma City in November.