The Catalyst

Residents work closely with special-needs patients

by Ashley Barker
Public Relations

Vietnam veteran Centry Prince, 69, has had his share of medical problems. After doctors determined that his optic nerve was damaged and lesions had grown on his spine, Prince was pronounced legally blind and was told he'd spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

He's also HIV positive, a part of his life that he preaches regularly about as a minister at Community Prayer Baptized Believers Apostolic Church in North Charleston. He receives medical assistance and is able to get dental work done at MUSC through the Ryan White Program.

Residents in the Advanced Education in General Dentistry clinic at MUSC use a lift to maneuver 69-year-old Centry Prince into position.
Residents in the Advanced Education in General Dentistry clinic at MUSC use a lift to maneuver 69-year-old Centry Prince into position so that he doesn't have to get out of his wheelchair for dental work.

"They want to keep you healthy, fit and not at risk for developing AIDS," Prince said.

Prince is a patient of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry clinic in the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine. He is taken care of by residents who are spending a post-graduate year learning new techniques and improving their existing general dentistry skills.

"I've never had dental work that was done with such accuracy," Prince said. "The residents are professional. They have great chairside manners."

The four AEGD residents are supervised and instructed by the clinic's director, Michelle Ziegler, DDS, who joined MUSC in July 2012. She is the reason that special-needs patients are becoming more of a priority in the program.

"When we think about special-needs patients, we probably think about autism, cerebral palsy or other physical or mental handicaps that are more difficult for a private practitioner to treat, but many patients have special needs," she said. "We need to teach our students and residents how to accommodate these patients. These patients have a real difficult time accessing dental care. Some of that difficulty comes from a lack of experience and lack of confidence on the dentists' part. Oftentimes those patients can be treated in the regular dental setting. They just require a little bit more time and a lot of patience and compassion on the part of the treating dentist."

Ziegler is teaching her residents to spend the extra time it takes with patients like Prince, who has to be lifted on a wheelchair ramp, and 23-year-old Daverton Britt, an autistic AEGD patient who enjoys the clinic because the residents let him help.

"The residents were so patient and made him feel comfortable," said Pamela Britt-Jones, Daverton's mother. "They explain everything, and they let him assist. He shoots the water or works the suction. He feels like he is a part of it."
The family lives in Orangeburg County and drives to Charleston for dental work.

"We drive about an hour to MUSC, but it's so worth it," Britt-Jones said. "Daverton actually looks forward to going and loves the people."


Ziegler finds that working with the special-needs population is humbling and rewarding.

AEGD residents, supervised by Dr. Michelle Ziegler, right, let Daverton Britt, 23, shoot the water or work the suction in order to keep him calm during his treatment. His mother drives from Orangeburg County to MUSC for Daverton's dental work.
AEGD residents, supervised by Dr. Michelle Ziegler, right, let Daverton Britt, 23, shoot the water or work the suction in order to keep him calm during his treatment. His mother drives from Orangeburg County to MUSC for Daverton's dental work.

"Finding dental work shouldn't be another problem for these parents who have so many other difficulties to overcome," Ziegler said. "Special-care dentistry is not a 'specialty' that requires extra training. You just have to be patient and willing to do it."

The AEGD program doesn't only focus on special-needs patients, though. The residents treat a wide range of patients of all ages. Routine cleanings, fillings, crowns, bridges and dentures are available, as well as surgeries and more complex procedures such as veneers for esthetics and dental implants.

Ziegler's goal is to open a special-needs clinic in the near future. She is hoping that grant funding and alumni support will help get the clinic off the ground.

"Through the generous support of alumna Dr. Pamela Kaminski and the S.C. Dental Association's Member Benefits Group, we already have a clinic in the building with three chairs and a wheelchair lift," she said. "However, more funding is needed to get the clinic staffed and stocked to be ready for use."

Ziegler said the new clinic would probably start off as a part-time facility and include AEGD residents and dental students.

"I think the more special-needs patients we see, the more word will get out and even more patients will be coming to us for care. This is a great opportunity for us to train our future dentists to be prepared to treat these special patients," she said.

With four residents already working, the plan is to expand to five residents next year and six the following year. Ziegler's goal is to get the special-needs clinic operational and incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum next fall.

"The residents that I've trained over the years, I'm happy to say, continue to treat the special-needs patient population," Ziegler said. "The residents are very nervous and hesitant at first, of course, but it's very gratifying to see how excited and proud they are of themselves when they're able to manage these patients and actually accomplish the treatment."

To contribute to the special-needs clinic financially, contact Stephanie Oberempt, director of development and alumni relations for the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine, at oberempt@musc.edu or 792-6933. To make an appointment at the clinic, call 792-1904.

April 10, 2013
 
 
 

© 2013  Medical University of South Carolina | Disclaimer