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EAST LOS ANGELES : Clinic Aids Children, Pre-Dental Students

July 04, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

UCLA pre-dental students have helped narrow the gap in dental care caused by county budget cuts at the Roybal Comprehensive Health Center.

The UCLA-Roybal Children's Dental Center, 245 S. Fetterly Ave., has been operating since September, but only recently had its grand opening because it was difficult to gather dignitaries for the celebration, said director Dr. Don Duperon. Duperon is a professor and chairman of the UCLA Pediatric Dentistry program.

The center has 26 chairs, an operating room and a recovery room, but cutbacks have kept it from operating at capacity, Duperon said.

UCLA negotiated with the county to allow its students to gain experience in pediatric dental practices in exchange for serving county children who need dental care. The students are there Monday through Thursday, with about four working during the summer. During the regular school year, seven to nine students work in the clinic, Duperon said.

"It's a nice deal because basically we use it as part of our pediatric pre-dental requirements and we serve the community," Duperon said. "The students learn to speak a little Spanish and we have a mostly Spanish-speaking staff."

About 40% of the children suffer from baby-bottle tooth decay, which occurs when babies are fed apple juice or other sugary liquids for long periods of time, Duperon said. Their front teeth usually have to be pulled and replaced with temporary bridgework until their permanent teeth come in.

"We wait until the child is 3 or 4 and put in something like a bridge so they don't feel self-conscious," he said.

The children's clinic charges $25 for an initial visit and $30 for subsequent visits, unlike the Roybal center, which charges on a sliding scale. Orthodontics and anesthesia are extra, with more complicated procedures performed at UCLA. The students have treated about 5,000 patients--some in four or more visits--for a total of 30,000 procedures.

Duperon said he hopes to expand the range of services at the center.

UCLA closed a similar clinic Downtown and moved some of its patients to the Roybal clinic. Information: (213) 780-2487.

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