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Community Dental Clinic celebrates latest expansion


With the latest 3,000 sq. ft. expansion completed, the Community Dental Clinic on CR 200S is set to see even more patients than ever. And, with a backlog of patients waiting to get in, there is no lack of need for the clinic.

The clinic, which opened its doors in November 1999, has expanded twice now, with the first expansion done in 2008 that added three treatment rooms. The most recent expansion, which started in February of this year, adds another eight chairs to the clinic.

The idea for the clinic started in the mid 1990s with Dr. Amy Shapiro and the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center’s work with area hemophilia patients. A dental intervention program was started with Dr. Brian Sanders from the IU School of Dentistry and hygienists Janet Mulherin and Esther Wingard, who began to see patients once a month in Elkhart.

In 1998, a committee from the Amish community was formed to look at the possibilities of starting a dental clinic in LaGrange County. Soon, fundraising haystack suppers were held to get the project started, as well as to share information with the community.

Thanks to the positive response to the events, and with encouragement from Dr. Shapiro, the decision was made to move forward with the idea of building a dental clinic in LaGrange County. The project was funded with contributions from the LaGrange County Community Foundation, South Bend Memorial Hospital, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Indiana State Department of Health, and several local private individuals.

The initial 2,480 sq. ft. facility was staffed by one dentist, one hygienist and two staff members. The 2008 expansion added 1,000 sq. ft.

But by 2011, the clinic was seeing a backlog in patients again, and the board saw the need to expand once more. Funds for the current expansion was raised with a 5 to 1 challenge grant from the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center. Along with proceeds for a sub sandwich drive, the clinic raised $240,000. The balance of the project was financed through Farmers State Bank.

Today, the facility has two full-time dentists, Dr. Lisa Leniski and Dr. Julie Kinsler. There are three hygienists, four expanded duty assistants, and five staff members.

The clinic sees 580 patients per month.

The clinic is also busy with prevention and education, with part of the new area a “practice” area where patients can be taught proper brushing and dental hygiene.

The clinic also hosts fourth-year dental students from IU to do hands-on learning in a clinical setting.

The clinic continues to accomplish its mission in the community. As the board noted, “We feel we can see families practicing more preventive dentistry. Young mothers are realizing how oral health can impact the overall health of their children. Preventative care can save a lot of pain and dollars in the long term. Today, the clinic is running at full capacity. We feel this is not as much related to the cost of care, but more a reflection of the quality of care provided at our clinic. We feel this is a direct result of the highly trained staff that we are so fortunate to have.”