Cynthia Walker was a professional office worker for many years before she had a life-changing accident in 2000, which left her without a job, medical and dental insurance, and hope. Devastated that she needed to go on Medicaid, she made tough choices when it came to her dental care.
Due to the lack of private dental offices accepting Medicaid, Walker was unable to pay for proper dental care for years. With the opening of Mercy Health Dental Clinic in 2014, Walker was able to use her dental Medicaid coverage and made an appointment. Each patient has a comprehensive oral exam, and a treatment plan is formulated by a dentist Mercy Health staff explain which procedures are covered by Medicaid in order for the patient to make an informed decision about their care.
Before the clinic opened, Walker—who is social by nature—remained indoors as much as possible. “My rotten teeth made me look like a crack head, which I am NOT,” she declared. “I adore Mercy Health. It’s a blessing that they accept Medicaid. Before I got my dentures, I just stayed in the house because people judged me based on my missing and rotting teeth. When people saw me coming, they didn’t really see me. I was ashamed…This clinic changed my world.”
In fact, Mercy Health Dental Clinic means so much her, that when she is able to do so, Walker drops by just to say hi and drop off a treat for the staff. “The people at the clinic are kind and patient. They work with you to make you comfortable. You don’t have to be afraid of going to the dentist. They take care of you…even the children. When my son gets his teeth cleaned, he actually falls asleep.”
“We love Cynthia,” said Wendy Wilterink, RDA, “She is like a member of our family. Our patients are the reason we are here.”
Kumar Magar, a teen from Nepal, was at the clinic to have four fillings. With his father sitting nearby, the staff used a portable phone to enlist the services of a live interpreter, so the dentist could communicate with Kumar and his father.
“Providing interpretation services is just one of the many ways we make our patients comfortable,” said dental assistant Wendy Wilterink, who works at the clinic because she loves to help people who normally can’t get help. “We have patients who speak many languages: Burmese, Nepali, Arabic, Spanish, Somali, Kinyarwanda, and Hakha Chin to name a few.”
The clinic’s patient base is currently 1,174 patients, but despite the busyness, Mercy Health focuses on each patient’s individual needs. Practice leader Susan Badaluco, RDH, explained, “We care for the underserved and the homeless in the Grand Rapids area as well as many refugee families. Last year we completed 2,188 dental procedures. We care for children from ages 3 to 20 as well as the adult population.”
Walker feels strongly about integrated care. “To take good care of a person, you need to include dental care. Mercy Health does that through this clinic. They actually care about the whole person.
“Thanks to Mercy Health Dental Clinic, I now have dentures, and I can eat and smile,” said Walker in appreciation. “So many people are walking around without teeth, just like I was. They need to know about this clinic and how it can change their lives.”
Mercy Health Dental Clinic
A Community Benefit Ministry of Mercy Health
781 36th Street SE Grand Rapids, MI 4954
Monday–Friday, 7:30 .a.m. to 4 p.m.
Commonly Covered Adult Medicaid Benefits
- Exams and Cleanings
- Partials (pre-authorization required)
- Dentures (pre-authorization required)