The new pediatric dentistry center of Yale-New Haven Hospital held a ribbon cutting ceremony last Thursday, celebrating its inception as a separate facility from the adult clinic, with expanded capacity and state-of-the-art equipment to serve children 16 years and under.

The center, which opened three months ago on 860 Howard St., is designed to accommodate low-income patients that may have special health care needs or severe disabilities. Services at the center are provided for a reduced fee, and all rooms are handicapped-accessible.

Shera Sims, one of two pediatric dental residents at the center, said the new facilities — which include digital radiography equipment, computerized chair-side patient record keeping, six treatment rooms, X-ray equipment, and laboratory space — are a great improvement over the one-room space previously used for pediatric care, located in the adult dentistry facility in the Dana Clinic on Howard Street.

“It was a really inadequate space for children,” Sims said.

Sims said two more residents will join the center by next year, allowing for the treatment of an even larger number of patients. Many of the center’s patients have never been to a dentist before and range from healthy older children needing check-ups to toddlers needing serious oral surgery.

“About 70 percent of the patients we’re seeing now are new,” Sims said. “We have the capacity to see lots and lots of children now.”

Dental attendee Laura Miner said that because the center can treat many children, the time between each patient’s appointments is shorter, making the appointments easier to remember. She said the greater frequency also allows the center to remind patients, who she said move and change their phone numbers frequently, of appointments.

“Patients who have to wait a long time until their next appointment may often get discouraged,” Miner said. “Our new program provides much greater access to care than was available before to the community.”

Another factor influencing the larger influx of patients, Miner said, is the fact that until recently dental insurance given to Yale employees was not accepted by the dental department at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Miner said the pediatric center is now booked until December.

Standing in the center’s colorful waiting room, New Haven resident Martha Sanchez said her children have been treated by Yale-New Haven Hospital dentists for 10 years. She said she liked the new center’s location and the greater amount of attention available.

“There is a lot more room here,” Sanchez said. “I actually got a parking space.”

Yale School of Medicine professor of dental surgery and pediatrics Dr. Donald Kohn is the director of the new pediatric dentistry center. This past spring he announced that he would leave his previous position as chief of the Dental Department at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

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