Smiles All Around: Bridging The Gap In Dental Healthcare In Chicago

Historically, the fields of medicine and dentistry evolved very separately. So it wasn’t like dentistry developed as a subspecialty of medicine. As a result, I think that dentists and physicians just concentrated on just our own individual professions. I think this mindset crept into the general population, where people began to see their dental health as very separate from their general health. You see your dentist to take care of your teeth, and you see your doctor to take care of the rest of your body. Never mind the fact that your teeth and your mouth are part of your body, those things had to be handled separately and don’t affect each other. Right?  

So should it be that way? Myself and a lot of other medical and dental professionals will say: absolutely not, it’s all interconnected. If you have inflammation in your mouth (like gum disease), that’s a chronic infection in your mouth. Infections spread, so it doesn’t just stay localized in your mouth. If it’s not treated, something we see as strictly ‘dental’ like gum disease can impact other parts of your body, especially if you’re living with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV, or other chronic conditions.  

That’s one of the great things about working and getting care at Howard Brown: we have medical providers and dental providers working together in the same space. That allows us to collaborate with and refer to one another, so that we can provide comprehensive care to our patients that takes into account how seemingly separate issues actually come together to create each person’s experience of their health.

It’s wonderful to be able to immediately look at a patient’s medical history and background and know that, okay, these are things I need to keep in mind when I see this person. Because oftentimes the dental care that we provide needs to be adjusted based on medications that people may take, medical conditions they may be living with, and many other factors. So being connected with medical providers helps us provide better care, it makes a huge difference. It really does.

Unfortunately, dental health always seems to be at the bottom of the list for people. Because dental care is often so expensive and requires a completely different type of insurance, seeing a dentist is usually not a high priority for anyone who’s low-income or struggling with finances. Our country’s health system has decided that dental care is a luxury rather than a necessity, which does many people a huge disservice.

Framing dental care as something extra or uncommon means that most people don’t decide to go to the dentist until something really bad is happening in their mouth. So when people come see us for the first time, they often have severe issues that need extensive and urgent treatment. But if people were able to come see a dentist on a regular basis, they could’ve taken smaller preventative measures that would have kept severe issues from happening in the first place.

That’s why I think organizations like Howard Brown are so important. We provide service that many people otherwise would not be able to get, because we will work with you regardless of whether you have insurance and regardless of your ability to pay. For me, that is one of the best things about working in dental care at Howard Brown.

Regardless of whether you’ve had past dental care or been able to do preventative dental care, we will create a comprehensive treatment plan for you that follows your needs closely from beginning to end. That way, you can end up with a functional, stable, healthy mouth that you’re able to smile with, eat with, and speak with, without pain or discomfort. That includes treating gum disease, deep cleanings, fillings, crowns, dentures, complete dentures, partial dentures, extractions, and more. We’re fortunate to partner with specialists who can provide even more specialty care for our patients. We can even restore implants! 

I once had the opportunity to take care of a patient who was missing one of her front teeth. As a result, she was extremely self-conscious and would never smile. When we finally saw one another again after I was able to fix her smile, she was like, “Oh my gosh. I cannot believe how much more my coworkers talk to me! My cheeks hurt from smiling so much!” Her coworkers told her they had thought she was rude because she never smiled and rarely spoke. But that was so far from the truth, she was just self-conscious. We were able to do a lot more than just improve her dental health: we were able to help restore her confidence and connect with other people. 

And it’s not just people who are low-income or uninsured: even people with dental insurance don’t seek dental care as often as they should because there is this perception that going to the dentist is always going to be painful. But what we find is that avoiding that discomfort often leads to more pain in the long run. Most people who come to us are already in pain because of chronic issues that have gone unaddressed. Sometimes people may have trauma from past experiences with a dentist that went poorly or were extremely painful. We understand and try to hold space for that in our clinics.

If you’re fearful of going to the dentist, we encourage you to come to us just for a consultation. Just come and meet us. We don’t have to do any dental work during the first appointment, we can just talk through your worries and figure out how to help make you feel more comfortable seeking care. Working inside someone’s mouth requires a lot of trust, and we’ll do anything to earn it.  

Working inside someone’s mouth requires a lot of trust, and we’ll do anything to earn it.  

Dr. Teofilo limosnero

As of fall 2023, we now operate two dental clinics: one in Englewood and one in Northalsted. Our first clinic dental clinic opened in Englewood in 2018 after tremendous effort from our Chief Dental Officer, Dr. Robin Gay. It would not have been possible without her. I worked with her to provide comprehensive, affordable dental care to patients on the South Side for five years until last fall, when we opened the new Dr. Harrison Mackler Dental Center on the North Side.

As the Dental Director, I oversee the Mackler Dental Center at Howard Brown Halsted. I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made for the communities that we serve. We have been able to provide affordable dental access to North Side community members, reduce travel time for many existing patients, and accept even more patients at our Englewood dental clinic. I can’t wait to see how many more people we can help with the dental program at Howard Brown Health.

To close with some ever-necessary reminders: there is no substitute for seeing your dentist regularly. Despite whatever a new miracle toothbrush or gadget says, you should always see a dentist regularly. If for some reason you can’t see a dentist, at the bare minimum you should be brushing, flossing, and eating healthy. Those are all the things that are going to help you long term.

If you’re looking for excellent and comprehensive dental care, you can make your first appointment with us online at the link below. We hope to see your smile soon!


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