OBERLIN — People gathered Wednesday to officially recognize the opening of a new Lorain County Health & Dentistry clinic.
The American Legion Post 656 of Oberlin, DAV Honor Guard, and Lewis Paul Proy Chapter 20 of Lorain raise the U.S. flag in front of the Oberlin Lorain County Health and Dentistry building on Aug. 31 during the grand opening. KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE
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The 6,800-square-foot $2.4 million clinic at 260 S. Main St. will employ 16 people. Construction began in September 2015 and was completed in March.
It is the fifth Health & Dentistry site to open in Lorain County. Oberlin interim City Manager Sal Talarico said Oberlin purchased the property, which once housed a lumber yard, in 1999.
The city hoped to build a service center there, Talarico said, but those plans didn’t pan out. Talarico said the Health & Dentistry clinic is next to a bike path and Oberlin Community Services.
“Could you find a better place?” Talarico asked.
Lorain County Health and Dentistry President and CEO Stephanie Wiersma speaks during the grand opening of the Oberlin Lorain County Health and Dentistry building on Wednesday evening, Aug. 31.
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Stephanie Wiersma, chief executive officer of Lorain County Health & Dentistry, said the clinic expects to serve about 15,000 patients annually, a third of whom will likely be children.
Wiersma said the clinic offers services including pediatrics, women’s health, adult medicine, optometry, asthma allergy services, general dentistry, integrated behavioral health and podiatry.
“We care for the whole person, from head to toe,” she said.
Wiersma said the Lifeshare Legacy Fund of the Community Foundation of Lorain County and the Nord Family Foundation donated about $500,000 toward the construction of the building.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, said the Affordable Care Act included $11 billion for community health centers.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks during the grand opening of the Oberlin Lorain County Health and Dentistry building on Wednesday evening, Aug. 31.
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Brown said community health centers have done remarkably well in serving underserved populations and especially children. Brown said whether one is a child growing up in the poorest part of East Cleveland or Appalachia, children without access to dental care are at risk for additional illness and stigmas associated with missing teeth.
“Pediatric dental care is a huge issue people simply don’t think about very often,” Brown said.
Kari Cunningham, a doctor of dental medicine, said the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children visit a dentist by their first birthday.
Going without dental visits can lead to bad oral hygiene habits early and a greater likelihood of dental disease.
Dental disease is connected to higher blood pressure and complications with diabetes, heart disease and pregnancy, Cunningham said. Dental disease in children can lead to problems with permanent teeth coming in and cosmetic problems associated with tooth loss can affect children and adults alike.
“Toothlessness can lead to joblessness,” Cunningham said. “Oftentimes employers look for aesthetically pleasing individuals to represent their company.”
This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Dr. Kari Cunningham’s name, and to correct her title. She is a doctor of dental medicine.