Dental Clinic at The Center Breaks Barriers to Oral Health for All

Dental Clinic at The Center Breaks Barriers to Oral Health for All

[Above (left to right): Tamesha Grant, Dr. Andra Woodard, and Dr. Kimberly Ingram in one of the exam rooms at the Dental Clinic at The Center.]

The Dental Clinic at The Center has had a busy summer. Aside from treating patients, the clinic’s staff has been preparing for an important transition that will bring the opportunity for dental care to more people in the Houston area, both with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

In 2015 and 2016, The Center shared that we were awarded grants from the Episcopal Health Foundation, which laid the groundwork for big changes at the dental clinic. Since then, the dental clinic has undergone a significant expansion and has added the option of IV sedation, which significantly reduces the need to send patients who require this service to external clinics with long waiting lists. Now the dental clinic has reached another milestone: transforming from a part-time clinic serving primarily clients of The Center to a full-time clinic available to the wider community.

Above: The Dental Clinic has been able to update much of its equipment as the result of grants from the Episcopal Health Foundation.

“The Dental Clinic’s number one priority will still be providing care to those with disabilities,” stresses Dr. Andra Woodard, who has been the Dental Clinic’s resident dentist for more than 17 years and has practiced dentistry for nearly four decades, “but we accept everybody.”

Dr. Woodard previously helped see the dental clinic through its transition from a state-run clinic to private in the 1980s. At the time of its inception, the dental clinic was one-of-a-kind and still remains one of the only dental clinics in greater Houston that not only accepts patients with I/DD but is designed for them specifically.

Prior to this summer’s changes, the dental clinic exclusively served adults with I/DD that were mostly clients of The Center and similar area agencies without their own on-site facilities. The new development creates more appointment slots for those existing patients while opening up new possibilities, such as the option for individuals with I/DD and their family members without I/DD to be examined at the same office. The Dental Clinic is now open to pediatric patients as well, making it an ideal place for children with I/DD to receive quality dental care that remains constant as they grow.

Tamesha Grant, the clinic’s Dental Assistant, prepares an exam room between patients.

One of the instrumental players in this transition is the dental clinic’s newest addition, Dr. Kimberly Ingram. Dr. Ingram came on board in late June from a private pediatric practice. She brings with her 22 years of experience that includes time in both the private and public sectors, in hospitals, and with children both with and without disabilities.

The diversity of her past clientele is part of what made Dr. Ingram a natural fit for The Center, which serves individuals from all different backgrounds with a range of medical and behavioral needs. Although The Center’s clients are all over 18 years of age, Dr. Ingram considers her work with children to be a unique asset in this environment. It has helped her to develop patience and the understanding that giving quality treatment is not always a textbook affair. To her, it means treating each person who sits in her chair based on individual needs, regardless of the accommodations this might require.

Dr. Woodard will pass the torch into Dr. Ingram’s capable hands and retire at the end of August. Long-time clinic employee Tamesha Grant will stay on as Dr. Ingram’s right-hand dental assistant while an anesthesiologist, Dr. Linda MaGill, will continue to visit on the first Tuesday of every month to provide IV sedation to clients who request it. While she is looking forward to the next chapter, there will be, says Dr. Woodard, a lot to miss.

“I’m going to miss the people the most,” says Dr. Woodard. “In all the places I’ve been, this has become my favorite because of [my patients]. I want to see the dental clinic succeed.”

The Dental Clinic at The Center will be open for patients from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. To make an appointment, call 713-525-8462. Visit the Dental Clinic’s web page for more information.

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