For Edie Hoyle and her 49-year-old son, Mark, visits to the dentist were once a grueling battle. Mark has cerebral palsy and requires additional care to make routine dental visits less traumatic.
“Mark has always been challenging. There was never much you could do to convince Mark if he didn’t want to do it (particularly dental visits),” shares Edie.
She tried everything she could to best support Mark, including regular visits to a local pedodontist. But as Mark got older, Edie quickly realized regular preventive dental care was not possible for Mark.
“We tried a variety of options, like driving to Saginaw [from our home in Bay City], but programs were full, or the waitlists were too long, making it hard to get in for an appointment,” Edie says.
“We would drive more than two hours away, for some appointments, only to be turned away if we were two minutes late,” Edie says “Other times, we would show up for appointments, expecting to move forward with a treatment plan, only to find out otherwise when they scheduled additional appointments for care. I was so unhappy and disappointed so many times — It just didn’t work.”
Mark's dental journey is not uncommon. It echoes those of so many individuals and families across the country. Individuals with physical needs, cerebral palsy, or other developmental disorders face enormous barriers to adequate and timely dental care.
Some people are unable to endure regular dental exams or cleanings in a traditional office setting. As a result, they are faced with a high burden of dental disease. As a nurse, Edie understood the importance of preventive oral health care. And, as Mark’s most prominent advocate, she would stop at nothing to get him the dental care he deserved.
Then, a glimmer of hope surfaced at the most unusual time, riding on the coattails of the statewide shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Barb, Mark’s nurse and a trusted family friend, had heard of a new dental center coming to the Bay City area, and in September of 2020, MCDC welcomed Mark as a new patient.
“We considered it a successful appointment because, they were able to get x-rays although not complete the cleaning,” Edie shared. But, when the dentist recommended hospital dental care, Edie immediately thought, “How long do we need to wait for hospital care?”
Immediately following his appointment at Bay City, Edie connected with Kara Mathews, Hospital Care Coordinator for MCDC. Kara’s sole mission is to provide hospital access to oral healthcare for patients with special needs who have lacked the resources to achieve proper oral health. From that moment, Edie realized she had more than just a dentist’s office supporting her son; she had a team of advocates.
As if predestined, in early 2020, MCDC launched a new hospital-based dental program at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot. This hospital dental program received $15,000 in grant funding from the Gratiot County Community Foundation. This program is dedicated to treating patients who cannot be cared for in a traditional dental office setting. Kara, of course, saw this as an excellent opportunity for Mark.
“From the moment I started working with Kara, she was most responsive in getting everything set up for Mark. She worked with Mark’s home and support staff to coordinate everything,” Edie shared.
In collaboration with a dental team, Kara made it possible to provide Mark the care he needed and deserved. Dr. Aaron Moeggenborg, DDS, provided the clinical services and the hospital provided space for this vital program.
“During this time, I was diagnosed with cancer, and every step of the way, Kara was there to support us. It was one less thing we had to worry about,” says Edie.
Mark is just one of over 52 million people with a disability in the United States. The inability to access comprehensive, patient centered oral healthcare is their number one healthcare barrier. Through the dedication and commitment of the MCDC team, Edie can rest assured Mark has a place that he can call his dental home.