Grant helps health center buy new dental equipment, reopen operatories | News, Sports, Jobs

Dr. Robert Leonard (left) and Dental Director Dr. Lawrence Shin are pictured in January at the Malama I Ke Ola Health Center Dental Clinic, which received a $ 126,700 grant for new dental equipment. Photo courtesy Malama I Ke Ola Health Center

The Maui News

Malama I Ke Ola Health Center has received a $ 126,700 grant for new dental equipment that allows all 12 of its dental operatories to safely reopen with a more efficient workflow and more complex treatments, the organization announced.

Dr. Lawrence Shin, who has served as dental director of Malama I Ke Ola since 2018, explained that the grant from the Hawaii Dental Service Foundation allows the center to buy new equipment to meet COVID-19 safety guidelines.

“We can now provide dental care in our community again, particularly for those with little to no income and have decreased dental insurance coverage as a result of the pandemic,” Shin said in a news release last week.

The dental clinic offers a range of comprehensive dental care services, including routine exams, X-rays, cleanings, deep cleanings, fillings, crowns, partials and complete dentures, root canals and extractions and all pediatric dental care.

Malama I Ke Ola, also known as the Community Clinic of Maui, expects a faster, smoother and more efficient workflow that allows providers to see more patients, the news release said. The medical-grade HEPA air filters in each dental operatory allow the clinic to see multiple patients in an open bay clinic layout and provide more complex treatments. The new 3D X-ray machine evaluates whether the clinic’s dentists are able to perform a root canal to prevent unnecessary referrals to a specialist. And, the new intraoral scanner also provides a faster turnaround time for crowns and bridges.

The clinic has opened its operatories cautiously in phases. Last year, the dental clinic remained open for adult emergency patients and children for routine care, with two dentists on staff. In January 2021, the dental clinic started seeing all patients with five operatory rooms running and three dentists on staff. In July, the remaining seven rooms were fully operational and fully staffed, including with a pediatric dentist and a pediatric resident. Malama I Ke Ola Health Center now has a total of five dentists and two hygienists on staff.

With all 12 rooms up and running, the clinic expects to be able to return to 70 percent of pre-COVID encounter numbers by the end of 2022, the news release said. It is now recruiting for additional dental staff and eventually will be able to accommodate emergency walk-ins once again to reduce dental-related visits to hospital emergency rooms.

“We recognize that vulnerable populations on Maui, as on all of the other islands, have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Dr. Diane Paloma, Hawaii Dental Service president and CEO. “The pandemic prompted many dentists to reduce their office hours for routine, preventive care and were only seeing patients for emergency and urgent services. As a result, many may have delayed preventive care because of a limited access to oral health care services for them during the pandemic. This grant helps to open the door for them and make oral health care more accessible. “

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