Bettye Reese is proud of her teeth - she had them for most of the 20th century and they are still going strong in the new millennium. At 89 years old, she realizes that good dental care has been the key to the health and longevity of her beautiful smile.
For the past five years, Mrs. Reese has been a patient at the Ina T. Allen Dental Center at Emory Healthcare's Wesley Woods Health Center. The Dental Center, led by Kevin Hendler, DDS, is one of the only dental facilities in Atlanta specializing in comprehensive dental care for older adults. The Dental Center had more than 2,400 patient visits last year.
"I like going to the Dental Center at Wesley Woods because of the extra time the dentist and staff members spend with their patients," says Reese. "I also like the fact they specialize in seeing patients my age. I feel like they understand my needs. Dr. Hendler is very observant, knowledgeable and kind."
The Dental Center is located on the first floor of the Wesley Woods Health Center near Emory University. "I love treating older people," says Dr. Hendler, who's been the director since the Dental Center began full time operation in 1992. "Plus, this population has specific dental needs that our facility is designed to meet ."
Patients visiting the Dental Center often suffer from conditions associated with old age. Parkinson's disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease are some of the most common diagnoses. The staff are trained to patiently serve elderly patients suffering from these and other conditions. "When working with patients who have Parkinson's disease, a lot of times, the bottom jaw shakes," says Hendler. "I will get in the rhythm of the tremor and go slow." He puts patients at ease by talking to them. However, patients who are uncooperative or apprehensive may require medications to put them at ease.
Dr. Hendler says taking care of your dental health can have a positive affect on your overall health, and he always reminds his patients of this fact. One example is that diabetics are more prone to periodontal disease and may need to be seen more than twice a year for routine maintenance. "There may also be a link between poor dental health and systemic diseases such as respiratory problems, heart disease and stroke. I'm glad people are realizing that oral health may impact general health," says Hendler.
The Dental Center was recently renovated. "Now it's spacious, well-decorated and comfortable," says Mrs. Reese. "It's what I think a dental office should look like. It is run the way a dental office should be run and it always puts me at ease."
Mrs. Reese receives more from the Dental Center than just a dental cleaning. To her, Dr. Hendler and his staff are like family. Reese first started going to the Dental Center when her late husband, the Rev. Roy I. Reese, urged her to do so. "He never minded going to the dentist, because he said he was going to a friend. I feel the same way" she says.