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Marshfield Clinic Family Health Center helps those with special needs access dental care

Published: Oct. 31, 2021 at 8:40 PM CDT
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MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) - When helping people with disabilities, dental services can be overlooked.

However, at Marshfield Clinic’s Family Health Centers, staff make treating people with special needs a priority.

That’s important for patients like Robin Ovren of Menomonie. She spends most of her day in a wheelchair so getting in the dental chair is no easy task.

Fortunately, at the Family Health Center’s Menomonie dental clinic, she can stay in her wheelchair while getting her teeth cleaned.

That’s because the clinic’s dental suites are specially built to accommodate them. They’re wider so wheelchairs can fit.

“Either the patient can stay in their wheelchair if it’s an electric wheelchair and it reclines on its own. Or we do have a wheelchair lift where they can wheel their wheelchair onto it and we can use that wheelchair lift to put the patient back in order for us to perform the needs that they are desired,” said dental hygienist Laurie Nichols.

She said keeping patients in their wheelchairs makes it easier for her to maneuver.

Maybe more importantly, it keeps them relaxed while someone works in their mouth.

“That’s their chair,” Nichols said. “They know how to run the electric wheelchair. They know that it could be cushioned for their comfort, it could have a back rest, could have a neck rest and so that’s their chair, that’s their motor vehicle, that’s their property so they’re very comfortable being in their own wheelchair that they come in with.”

“Everything that we didn’t have before we have here for her dental needs,” said Charleen Ovren, Robin Ovren’s mother.

Charleen Ovren said finding a good dentist for her daughter wasn’t always easy before discovering the Family Health Center.

“For all of us it’s very important but especially for Robin,” she said. “And Robin’s fortunate because she gets her teeth cleaned every three months and that definitely helps her keep her teeth.”

For Nichols, it’s great to be able to make a difference in her patients’ lives.

“Everybody comes in, they may not like the dentist but they have the best personalities,” she said. “They are always happy. If I can make their day a little bit brighter when they leave here, that’s an accomplishment.”

The Family Health Center’s dental clinics are considered safety net facilities. This means they’ll treat anyone regardless of income level.

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