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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 5:49 pm | Fair 59º


New Goleta Neighborhood Dental Clinic in Old Town Already Filling Community Need

The facility, which opened two weeks ago on Kinman Avenue, has surpassed its patient goal and plans to double in size by January

The new Goleta Neighborhood Dental Clinic is already booked solid for the next two weeks, an indicator of the need for affordable dental care on the Santa Barbara County’s South Coast.

“I’ve been dreaming about it for years,” chief dental officer Dr. Quynh Nguyen said.

The three-chair dental clinic opened two weeks ago in Old Town Goleta with its office at 164 Kinman Ave., Suite A and plans to double in size by January.

With Nguyen in charge, the facility already surpassed its goal of seeing 10 patients per day — dentists are serving 13 patients per day.

People come to the clinics for the high-quality, affordable care, Nguyen said. The dental clinics provide preventive care, emergency care and a variety of surgeries, including crowns, bridges, extractions and implants.

John Lewis, a local psychologist on the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics board of directors, is a patient of the dental program and toured the facility this week. He said opening a new clinic is fraught with red tape but worth the effort to provide a much-needed service.

The Eastside Dental Clinic currently has a three-month waiting list for adult patients with Denti-Cal insurance, the program through Medi-Cal. Most of the SBNC's patients are low-income local residents. 

This new location will help fill that need and will expand into the neighboring office to allow even more patients, Nguyen said. She hopes to have six seats, up from the current three, by January.

In addition to full-time employees, the Neighborhood Clinics is in its fifth year of a dental residency program through the Council on Dental Accreditation for the Eastside Dental Clinic and will bring residents to the Goleta location soon, Nguyen said.

She always has her pick of applicants for the program, with 85 people vying for four spots right now.

Residents want to work with the Neighborhood Clinics for the high volume of patients and procedures, and progressive approach to using modern dental technology, she said. 

Preventive care is a major focus for the dental clinics, and they educate families how to brush, floss and eat right to prevent cavities and gum disease.

Of the children who come in for care, 95 percent of them have five- to seven cavities the first visit, Nguyen said.

“The only way we can make a difference to our patients is to educate them,” Nguyen said.  

The Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics nonprofit organization was at risk of closing after years of operating with a $250,000-per-month deficit. Last year, a coalition of foundations and donors raised $600,000 and implemented a turnaround plan to keep the clinic doors open last year.

Federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant funding prompted the recent expansion from four clinics to six, including a new medical and dental clinic in Goleta.

SBNC is still finalizing a lease for the permanent medical clinic, but it opened a small, temporary clinic at 334 S. Patterson Ave. in the meantime.

The federal grant funding includes annual funding of $650,000, starting this year, but doesn’t include capital expenses for new sites, so the clinics still rely on local donors for support, Lewis said.

As a federally qualified health center, the clinics must serve every patient, regardless of ability to pay.

The dental clinics accept Denti-Cal, Covered California and most private insurance plans for care. The Eastside and Goleta neighborhood dental clinics are the only places that accept homeless patients in Santa Barbara County since the Public Health Department doesn’t have a dental clinic and refers people here instead, Nguyen noted.

The new dental clinic is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday at noon and a community open house Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a nutrition class, puppet show and information about Covered California insurance plans.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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