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Tamworth Dental Center is ready for kids

July 17, 2009
TAMWORTH — Tri-County Community Action Program's Tamworth Dental Center is now open to the general public and ready to treat children, providing comprehensive dental care to patients of all ages and incomes in a comfortable, welcoming environment.

The full-service family practice—located at 448B White Mountain Highway on the Tri-County CAP complex—offers diagnostic, preventative and restorative dental services, as well as prosthetics and oral surgeries like extractions.

The practice is especially focused on serving children with N.H. Healthy Kids insurance. Most insurance companies are accepted, and for uninsured and underinsured adults, a sliding fee scale is available depending on household income.

The Center had a quiet opening in June, giving priority to patients on its waiting list. Tri-County CAP hosted a grand opening on Tuesday, offering tours, meetings with Dr. Jennie Hennigar and her staff, and a presentation honoring the many donors that made the Center possible.

"We received probably a dozen or so contributions from individuals over the years, some going back to 2005. We dug through the records and some of them are pretty substantial," said Peter Higbee, deputy director of Tri-County CAP. "We have a plaque that we put their names on to give them some public recognition."

The donations have gone toward filling a crucial need for convenient, affordable dental care in Carroll County. Higbee said the first month showed how serious the situation had become, with patients coming in complaining of pain in one tooth and leaving with a comprehensive care plan. "These people had, yes, one tooth that was more problematic than the rest, but very often just a whole mouthful of trouble," he explained. "These are people who haven't had dentistry at all for a long time."

Hennigar said she has seen cysts and "quite a few scary things" in her new patients. "The mouths, they're neglected. They need the care," she said. "They have broken off teeth to the gumlines, gotten all infected… Most of the people come in for a limited exam and we take care of one problem. I would think just about everyone else has come back to get full-service plans. It doesn't mean that they're going to do it all at once, but at least they've made a step to take care of themselves, and we can help with that. And that we didn't expect."

Patients have been incredibly appreciative, she added. "They're so happy to have someone take care of them. I get hugs! I take a tooth out, and I get a hug? Now come on," said Hennigar.

Most patients so far have been adults, but Higbee, Hennigar and their staff are particularly excited to book more youngsters at their kid-friendly office.

The Center provides nitrous oxide and laser dentistry. "No-shot, no-drill, no-pain. Laser dentistry is up-and-coming, especially with kids," explained Hennigar. "There's no fear. It sounds like popcorn. They just love it… I really would love to get them in here and do more of that. After they're like, "You're done? That's it?' It cuts the time down, they're not scared of the chair, and there's no needle. It's just different, and we have fun."

She tries to promote education, wellness and prevention with her young patients, like one 15-year-old who had been chewing tobacco for two to three years. "I think that's the most impacting thing I've seen," she said of the patient she met on her first day in Tamworth. "I've seen adults with that, and they have developed cancer. But I never thought I'd see a kid of 15 with that… That will stay in my mind. I want to do the best I can to help these kids be healthy."

Hennigar is also experienced in treating special needs children, including autistic and mentally challenged youth. If a child has a condition like cerebral palsy that makes cleanings difficult, the Center's staff will refer the patient to a specialist who can treat him or her. (However, these referrals are rarely necessary.) Hennigar has found that confused and frustrated parents of special needs youth just want help getting to the right place. "We'll look into all kinds of different contacts if we can't do it," she said. Handicapped adults are encouraged to stop in as well.

Additionally, Higbee and Hennigar are proud of their friendly, multitasking staff: Dental assistant Candace Reidy, hygienist Crystal Buswell, and receptionist Lauren Sousa. The trio excels in making even the most nervous patients comfortable by explaining procedures and being helpful and accommodating, they said.

For more information or to schedule an appointment for yourself or your child, call 323-7645 or email dental@tccap.org. The Tamworth Dental Center is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Martin Lord Osman
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