Altgeld Gardens Dentist

by  Youth Reporter from Altgeld Gardens

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program.

What do you think of when you are sitting in a dentist’s waiting room? Terror? Fear? Anxiety?

The first thing I think of when I envision a dentist is a big, rude, muscular and ugly person, man or woman, who wants to drill or yank out your teeth with a pair of pliers or other weird tools—that is, until I woke up to reality and overcame my fears, which I found to be all untrue.

Recently, I sat down and had a conversation with Dr. Scott, a dentist at TCA Health Inc., a small clinic at the entrance of the Altgeld Garden’s / Murry Homes public housing development that provides health care and social services to the underserved.

Just off to the side of the Bishop Ford freeway, on the corner of 130th and Ellis, is a small red building called TCA. Inside, there is a calm, cool atmosphere with a few TV’s. There are radiant white walls decorated with pamphlets and posters to inform and promote healthy choices through daily suggestions for a healthier lifestyle.

As I sat in the waiting room, waiting to interview Dr. Scott, I was anxious and nervous. But then, just like I had been called for a dentist appointment, I was guided to the back of the clinic to the dentist’s waiting room. Around the corner came Dr. Scott—a thin, young woman with long hair and a caramel complexion wearing a white smock with her name stitched on it.

As Dr. Scott escorted me to her office, I felt nothing but anxiety take over because I had never interviewed someone before, let alone a dentist. Her medium sized office had a computer and framed degrees hung on the white walls. After introducing ourselves, we got right down to business.

“I wanted to go into a field of helping people, which turned out to be the health field,” said Dr. Scott as to why she wanted to become a dentist. She said she found it important to work and help people who are struggling.

She sees herself as an advocate for healthy living within the Altgeld community by putting up fliers, educating and making the community aware of oral hygiene in general.

As a dentist, Dr. Scott actually diagnoses and fixes people’s teeth as opposed to the dental assistant who is more of a sidekick and prepares the patient for the dentist. To be qualified as a dentist you need four years of dental school and two years of graduate school.

Dr. Scott is a general dentist who works in basic dentistry. There are other types of dentists, for example pediatric dentists who work with children. However, specialized dentistry requires more schooling, but you can earn more money.

One a typical day, said Dr. Scott, “There are a lot of patients with emergency pain throughout the morning and scheduled patients throughout the afternoon.” On average, she sees about 10 patients a day and works eight hours.

As a local health clinic, TCA tries to be flexible and aid people struggling to pay their bills. For example, if a patient doesn’t have health insurance, TCA provides a payment plan on a sliding scale, according to income level.

Because I am interested in becoming a pediatric dentist, I was very interested in what advice Dr. Scott could give a young person like myself.

She said I needed to have good grades, especially in the sciences, and to stay in touch with dentistry by interning at a clinic. She said to take advantage of a dental career by staying in school and sticking with it.

Throughout the interview Dr. Scott said, “There is a lack of African American women dentists. We have to take advantage of this career by working hard and finishing school. Its a good career.”

I will remember and use this quote throughout my years in college because I feel this quote is true not only for a dental career particularly, but also with college period!

My overall view of the TCA Health clinic was that it is a very comforting place that people shouldn’t fear but rather a place people should want to go.

TCA is so different from other clinics because it’s a small, local clinic that, because of its size, the doctors and dentists are able to connect with the patients on a more social level. This is different for other less personal clinics.

“We are a smaller clinic, but we get to know the patients like family,” said Dr. Scott.

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