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Clinic opens doors for dental exams
5 Dental Clinic pic
Phillip Bonner, Good Shepherd board member, from left, Nursing Director and board Chairwoman Jane Stuckey, board member Betty Mallernee and Donald Johnson, dental clinic director, display the new dental clinic facility at the Good Shepherd Clinic. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

A local charity clinic has opened the doors on its new dental clinic.

The Good Shepherd clinic, operating out of its Dawson Commons office, offers dental procedures for its qualified patients.

The clinic provides free, non-emergency medical care for adults who live, work or go to school in Dawson County and fall at 200 percent or below the federal guidelines for poverty.

A general practice facility, the clinic also offers specialty care, ranging from gynecology and surgical consultations to ear, nose and throat exams.

"We've been working with this project for about two and a half years, building up donations and volunteers," said Donald Johnson, the dental clinic's director. "We didn't have the space at our original location for a clinic of this nature."

The volunteer staff of doctors, nurses, medical technicians and administrative personnel operates the clinic entirely on donations.

"We just started signing up doctors last week, and so far we've signed up a periodontist and her staff and we've met with a study group in Atlanta and signed up a doctor from there," Johnson said.

The dental clinic is scheduled for different hours than the medical clinic to "keep down congestion," according to Johnson.

"We're excited to meet the tremendous amount of need for dental care this county has," Johnson said. "Most insurance programs don't cover extensive dental work, so we know what the need is and we want to meet it."

The dental clinic will, however, require the same guidelines as the medical clinic for treatment.

"The patient pool will come through the medical clinic for dental, as well," said Johnson.

For now, the clinic will not be turning away any in immediate medical need for dental work.

"Anybody that comes in, we will render the care to the best of our extent," Johnson said. "We cover emergency care and we get people out of pain, but we don't do crowns or bridges or things like that."

Having only set up last week, the clinic is taking one last inventory before it lets in its first flood of patients.

"We still have a little bit left to do here, but what we want to find out now is if there is anything that our volunteer dentists need that we don't have and then we'll get that for them," Johnson said.

However, Johnson said he was already looking to the future, with plans for one final piece in the works.

"The way we are set up now, we wouldn't want to put in more chairs right now. We can take care of what we have right now," he said. "The next thing we want to add is a digital, panoramic X-ray machine. As soon as we get the money for that, we'll put it in."