Donation-based dental clinic accepts ‘anybody who can come in’
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Dental hygienist Tanelle Nelson watches as a dentist works on a patient recently at Affordable Dental Clinic of Whitewater. The clinic operates on donations and is the only one of its kind in Walworth County. Terry Mayer/staff.
WHITEWATER -- For three years, Kathy Jo Dahl, 59, waited for Medicare approval for a root canal.
Dahl, disabled and unable to work, would periodically return to her local dentist in Fitchburg, but all he did was put a cotton ball daubed with antibiotics up against her infected tooth. She went to an emergency room for penicillin, too, but the throbbing continued without a break, month after month.
“I could feel the pain from that tooth with every beat of my heart,” she said.
A few weeks ago, Dahl heard about the Affordable Dental Clinic of Whitewater. For $10, she was able to meet with a dentist, set up regular monthly payments of $20 and finally get the root canal procedure started.
In his 35 years in the dental industry, Tim Buck, a Madison-area sales rep for Henry Schein, an international dental equipment distributor, has became aware of a growing number of people without dental insurance and the finances to see a dentist.
In response, he started Affordable Dental, a clinic that isn’t government funded, but operates through donations from dentists primarily in the Madison and Dane County area.
The Whitewater clinic is the only such dental clinic operating in Walworth County.
“People just don’t realize the need out there,” Buck said, adding that children and seniors are most affected.
Buck didn’t want to use state or federal government funds for the clinic, in part, because the funding might hamper the patients the program could accept.
“The tax burden on the general public is tremendous enough, anyway,” Buck said.
Although he originally wanted to open a clinic near his sales territory in Dane County, when he heard of an empty dental office in Whitewater, he rented it, and started rounding up a staff.
Then, using connections through his job, he contacted manufacturers, asking for donations, from filling and impression material for teeth to basic office equipment, like a cabinet donated by Briggs-Williams’ husband, a dental sales representative.
The clinic opened its doors Feb. 16, and as of April 2, has seen 48 patients.
For more information about the clinic, located at 113 E. Main St. in Whitewater, call (262) 472-8818.
Read the full story in the April 11, 2010 e-edition of Walworth County Sunday, HERE.