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    Upgrades to be proud of

    The dental clinic at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital received donations to fund its recent kid-friendly renovations.

    A green path decorated with oversized footsteps makes a trip to the dental clinic at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital less scary for young patients. Add in new wood cabinets, softer lighting, soothing colors in the decor, and children’s artwork on the walls and the result is a clinic with a kid-friendly atmosphere that matches how the rest of the hospital looks.

    The hospital-based clinic first opened its doors about 30 years ago, and its décor had remained frozen in time.

    “Everything was pretty much white. When it was built they were going more for a medical, sterile environment,” said Chris Rowland, DDS, director of the clinic.

    “It was old and out of date. It didn’t fit the first class nature of the hospital,” added Jeff Gardino, field sales representative for Henry Schein Dental’s local branch in Memphis.

    The work to bring the clinic up-to-date took about three months to complete. Henry Schein spearheaded the project, which included donations from Midmark, to provide new equipment, furniture and materials. Together, the two companies’ donations amounted to about $400,000. Delta Dental gave a substantial donation of $200,000 to finish the renovation.

    “We saw we could make it a first-class facility,” said Gardino. “We met at the hospital, talked to hospital officials, saw their needs and then worked with vendors.”

    The clinic has three dental chairs. Two chairs are in an open bay and the other chair is in a private room. About 1,200 patients a year are treated at the clinic.

    The hospital had been planning to renovate the dental clinic, but the plans were put on fast-forward when donations came in from Schein, Midmark and Delta Dental.

    “Without those donations we’d be a year or two out from even starting the project,,” Rowland said. “Henry Schein was the initial motivating factor. They said they really wanted to do this. The other two companies came along side at the perfect time.”

    In addition to a more kid-friendly atmosphere, the new clinic has diagnostic technology, intraoral cameras and laser technology.

    “We’d never integrated laser technology into the clinic, now we have it,” Rowland said. “We can perform some procedures with a laser and avoid numbing the patient, which makes the visit more pleasant for the patient.”

    The hospital’s mission is to find cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. St. Jude has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world.

    “Providing an on-site dental clinic also is in keeping with St. Jude’s philosophy of providing comprehensive patient care,” Rowland said.

    He noted that the clinic helps protect the health of young patients who have cancer, sickle cell anemia or other catastrophic illnesses. The diagnosis of these young patients makes it more problematic for them to see a dentist at home.

    Dr. Phil Wenk, president and CEO of Delta Dental,  said that’s why his company wanted to contribute to the project.

    “The children being treated at St. Jude have immune systems that are very vulnerable, and with the mouth being the gateway to the body, their oral health is critical to the success of their treatment,” Wenk said. “This clinic allows children, particularly those not able to leave the hospital, the opportunity to get the care they need without ever having to leave St. Jude and risk exposure that may further jeopardize their health.”

    Rowland said the more kid-friendly clinic has been received well by the children and their parents. The changes are most obvious to those who had visited the clinic when it was all white and sterile-looking.

    “The kids who’ve been here before and are returning for dental treatment are the most impressed,” he said.

    Gardino said he is pleased with how Henry Schein Dental and the other companies stepped up to make donations that made a significant change in the clinic and play a role in improving the lives of many young patients.

    “The way we were able to do it in a top-notch fashion makes me very proud,” Gardino said.