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Nonprofit dental clinic expands

There were a lot of smiling people at the dentist in Carlton last week, as the Lake Superior Community Health Center (LSCHC) celebrated the completion of its dental practice expansion, along with a new chiropractic center. With the expansion, the nonprofit health care center will now be able to offer double the services for dental patients.

The difference between LSCHS and most other dental practices in the area is the Carlton clinic serves primarily a low-income population.

"Anybody is welcome to come here for the services that we provide, but we are one of the only dentists that takes primarily Medicaid patients," said LSCHC chief operating officer Lee Homan. "If you have been on Medicaid, accessing dentistry can be one of the hardest things to do in a community. So actually expanding access is a great thing to be able to do."

LSCHC CEO Jessie Peterson estimated they will be able to see approximately 6,500 patients in the coming years. In Carlton County, she said approximately 20 percent of adults receive Medicaid services and approximately 24 percent of adults have not received dental care within the last year or year-and-a-half.

"We know this is a place where our expertise and niche in the health care market is really needed," she told the crowd at the ribbon cutting last week.

Homan guided guests around the newly renovated offices Wednesday, April 12, showing off a new 360-degree X-ray machine and a total of four "operatories," or patient stations. They just hired a hygienist, and plan to hire an additional dentist to work there. The clinic serves Carlton County residents, but also patients from Duluth, Superior and other surrounding areas who need but can't afford dental care.

"Our only limitation is our ability to recruit and retain dentists and afford the space we need to provide the dentistry," Homan said. "Being able to double our capacity will be a huge relief for a lot of folks who have been trying to access dentistry for a very long time."

Although the Carlton clinic offers only dental and chiropractic services, Lake Superior Community Health Center has three fully integrated practice locations in Duluth and Superior that offer primary, dental and behavioral health care, access to discount pharmacy, and more that prioritizes the patient care experience.

No insurance? No problem. Services are provided on a sliding fee scale. For the uninsured, that means the cost is based on a person's household size and income.

That's enough to bring a smile to the face of anyone who's been waiting to be seen.