Taking the Fear Out Of Going to the Dentist

Larissa Garcia with Mengchi Steven Yang, DDS.

Larissa Garcia with Mengchi
Steven Yang, DDS.

When Larissa Garcia was born, everything seemed normal. Then, a few days later, she had difficulty breathing. Genetic tests revealed that she had Trisomy 13, a chromosomal condition associated with severe intellectual disability and physical abnormalities in many parts of the body. Because of the life-threatening medical problems that present themselves shortly after birth, many Trisomy 13 patients don’t survive past infancy, but Larissa is now nine years old and attending school in Mount Olive, NJ.

Finding dental care for someone with Larissa’s condition, however, was a problem until her family discovered the dental clinic at the Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry during a visit to The Matheny School four years ago. “I was crazy,” her mother, Rosemary Wood recalls. “I was wondering, ‘Where am I going to take her for a dentist?’”

Going to the dentist is a stressful experience under any circumstances, but for someone with Larissa’s disability, it could be frightening. At Matheny, says Wood, “They’re so caring. Everybody makes her comfortable. Dr. Yang, the dentist, is so patient. If she starts screaming, he says, ‘All right, Larissa, we’ll give you a break.’ He’s a really great guy. It means a lot to me.”

The Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry specializes in healthcare for people with mild to severe developmental and intellectual disabilities in an outpatient setting. Dental services and treatment include x-rays, cleanings, treatment of cavities, extractions, restorative dentistry, oral surgery and root canals. Services are provided in partnership with the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine.

In addition to visiting the dental clinic, Larissa receives services from the MCMD’s seating and mobility clinic. She has received assistance in evaluating and purchasing adaptive bath/toileting equipment, an adapted tricycle to promote active movement and balance skills, and a specialized car seat to address her size and safety needs. The seating and mobility clinic staff was also able to make adjustments in her adaptive positioning stroller system to better support her sitting posture and functional needs.

Says Rosemary Wood: “We just love it at Matheny. Everybody is so compassionate. It makes a difference in Larissa’s life because she has gone through so much.”

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