UT Health introduces new dental clinic catering to individuals with special needs

The UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry has recently unveiled a state-of-the-art special-care dental clinic, aimed at providing essential dental care to individuals of all ages with medical complexities, as well as cognitive and physical disabilities. This groundbreaking facility, named the Phil and Karen Hunke Special Care Clinic after the generous philanthropists who funded the project, is located on the first floor of the school’s Center for Oral Health Care and Research, occupying an impressive 4,300 square feet.

The establishment of this specialized clinic is a significant milestone for individuals with special needs, who often face barriers to accessing dental care due to financial constraints, limited resources, or fear. Trish Guerra, a mother whose 11-year-old son Brian has Down syndrome, expressed her enthusiasm for the clinic, stating, “So many people go without care. Financial. Their resources. Or they’re just afraid. So, coming into an environment like this is huge.”

Guerra believes that this clinic will be a gamechanger for her family and others in similar situations, emphasizing the importance of providing individuals with special needs with the right resources and atmosphere. The clinic has been meticulously designed to accommodate diverse patient needs, offering features such as dimmable lights, quiet spaces, and distraction-free areas. Dr. Jennifer Farrell, the director of the UT Health School of Dentistry, explained, “Whether a patient needs dimming of the lights, a quiet space, or maybe they just need to be in a distraction-free area, we can accommodate that.”

With seven dental treatment rooms, including five specifically designated for conscious sedation treatment, the clinic has the capacity to serve up to 40 special-needs patients per day. Additionally, the facility will also serve as a community resource and provide valuable training opportunities for dental students. Dr. Farrell highlighted the presence of a unique feature called the Zen Den, describing it as “a place where they can go and chill out for a few minutes and then come back for care.”

The overarching goals of the clinic, according to Dr. Farrell, are to ensure that patients’ treatment needs are met and to train dental providers to effectively cater to individuals with special needs in their own practices. This dual-focus approach aims to enhance access to quality dental care for this underserved population, both within the clinic and beyond. For more information about the comprehensive services and amenities offered by the clinic, interested individuals can visit the clinic’s website.

The establishment of the Phil and Karen Hunke Special Care Clinic represents a significant stride forward in addressing the oral health disparities faced by individuals with medical complexities and disabilities. This cutting-edge facility not only demonstrates UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry’s commitment to inclusivity and access to care but also sets a new standard in providing specialized dental services to those who need it most.

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