Four Colorado Springs dental practices are continuing their commitment to providing high-quality care to their patients, particularly those with disabilities, with help from the Independence Center.

On Nov. 14, Briargate Advanced Family Dental, Simply Kids Dental, Mission Medical Center and Community Dental Health were publicly named the recipients of a nearly $70,000 total accessible dental equipment giveaway through the center’s IC Fund to make the experience of going to the dentist easier and more comfortable for patients with disabilities.

American census data from 2012 shows that nearly one in every five Americans have a disability, according to information published in a July 25, 2012 article, “Nearly 1 in 5 people have a disability in the U.S., Census Bureau Reports.”

Severe disabilities can substantially limit a major activity, such as caring for oneself, seeing hearing, eating, sleeping, walking or standing, states a research report conducted by the Independence Center aimed at creating disability-friendly dental practices.

Since those numbers are self-reported, it’s likely that those numbers are underreported and that closer to 25% of Americans have a disability, said Elle Livengood, a community advocacy coordinator at the Independence Center.

“People won’t (get medical or dental care) if they can’t feel comfortable or can’t get in (the building),” said Independence Center CEO Patricia Yeager. “That prevents people from getting the care they need, and then they go to the ER, which is expensive. If you can’t get into that (dental) chair, then what?”

By the end of December or early January, each of these four dental practices will receive a Versatilt wheelchair lift, a safe patient handling device that allows wheelchair patients to be able to recline in a position that is both comfortable for the patient and provider.

Prior to the wheelchair lift, many of the practices faced challenges when working with disabled patients, like providing dental care in positions that were uncomfortable and painful for both the patient and the provider. Sometimes it was necessary to transfer patients to the standard dental chair, a process that can be difficult and can pose a risk to the patient and/or the provider, said Carrie Baatz, community training coordinator at the Independence Center.

Livengood described feedback received from a wheelchair user with nerve damage when the center composed its research report.

“When he transfers, all of a sudden the nerves change and then he’d move into the dental chair and then experience all this pain and spasms. His wife would have to hold his body down ...,” Livengood said.

For the staff at Briargate Advanced Family Dental, the addition of the Versatilt will expand upon the accessible services it already provides. Dr. Peter McIntyre, dentist and owner of Briargate Advanced Family Dental, has been working with seniors and special needs communities on the Front Range for 30 years.

“Our office has been really good about being accessible for all,” said Dr. Jessika Martin, a dentist at Briargate Advanced Family Dental. “(The Versatilt) will allow us to provide a higher standard of care because we’ll be able to visually see them … and allow us to reach many more patients.”

Dr. Sean Vostatek, pediatric dentist and owner of Simply Kids Dental, said the wheelchair lift is imperative to making sure that his patients remain comfortable physically and emotionally during their visits.

“With this Versatilt, we’re also putting (child patients) in their comfort (zone) and they’re staying in their (wheelchair), so we can still come to them and reach them at a point where they feel comfortable and safe,” Vostatek said.

Stephanie Contreras, patient care and hospital coordinator at Simply Kids Dental, added that the new equipment will also help put parents at ease, knowing their children will be accommodated.

“Kids feed off their parents, and … parents are very used to coming into a dental office almost preparing to have to fight for their child to get the accommodations that they need. I think, for a parent, just knowing that they’re coming to a clinic or an office that’s offering something like this, they’re going to come in with the confidence that their kids will feed off of and I think that will make a big difference for our autistic patients, or just any patients with disabilities.”

Vostatek said that comfort can also extend toward disabled parents who bring their able-bodied children to see him.

“Sometimes children don’t have special needs, but their parents (have) certain disabilities, so we have to reach out to the parents … And those parents who have disabilities didn’t grow up in an environment like this, so they have a lot of anxiety that they’re (projecting) onto their kids. This allows them to feel comfortable immediately by seeing some of these devices and ways that we can make it more comfortable … for them.”

The practices also received windowed medical masks, which allow patients who are deaf, hard of hearing or those with sensory sensitivities to read lips. As part of the giveaway, they will also receive from the Independence Center a complimentary ADA audit about access to their facility as well as a confidential report and disability competency training session.

Editorial Assistant

Breeanna Jent is a multi-beat journalist who joined the Pikes Peak Newspapers staff as its editorial assistant in 2018. She has lived in Colorado Springs for four years and enjoys reading, spending time with her family and dogs, and exploring Colorado.

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