Clinic expands dental services for special-needs patients

The staff of a newly expanded dental clinic at Orange Grove Center hopes to bring much-needed dental care to an underserved population: people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

People with these conditions, such as autism and mental retardation, desperately need access to dental services, but many dentists "don't know how to deal with them," said Leslie Smith, marketing coordinator at Orange Grove.

"They typically want to sedate our clients, because they can be difficult to handle," she said.

With the help of a $100,000 grant from the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, Orange Grove recently overhauled its 30-year-old dental clinic and hired its first full-time staff dentist in years.

Dr. Kristin Compton, one of the few dentists in the nation who has specialized training in special-needs dentistry, completed a fellowship in the techniques at the Underwood and Lee Clinic in Louisville, Ky.