Ukiah, CA – MCHC Health Centers is pleased to welcome Dr. Kim Chen, an experienced dentist who is on a mission to provide excellent care while reducing people’s fear of going to the dentist. Chen is a general dentist who’ll be seeing pediatric patients aged 8 and younger in Ukiah.
According to researchers, between 50 and 80 percent of American adults have some degree of dental anxiety, ranging from mild to severe. Chen believes that parents often pass on this fear to their children.
“I once had an Iraqi war veteran come in with a toothache. He said he would rather go into combat than go to the dentist. When I left for a moment to review his x-rays, he lost his courage and left without being treated,” she said.
Chen explains that when children go to the dentist for the first time, it should be a preventive visit–one where the dentist and child get to know each other. Ideally, a child’s first visit occurs at about six months of age when the first tooth emerges.
When babies and toddlers become accustomed to dental visits and they develop good dental habits that prevent cavities and other infections, they have no reason to fear the dentist. On the other hand, when a child’s first visit to the dentist includes a painful procedure, the child will often associate going to the dentist with pain, potentially kicking off life-long dental anxiety.
“When parents wait to bring in their child for a problem, everything is more difficult. We must use a needle to inject anesthesia, and if there is already swelling, anesthesia doesn’t work as well. Better to come in before problems start,” she said.
Chen understands what it is like to be afraid of the dentist. In fact, this is the reason she became a dentist. Originally, Chen planned to be an engineer, but when she overcame her own fear of going to the dentist, she decided to help others do the same.
Originally from Taiwan, Chen grew up in Florida and moved to California for college, graduating from the University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry in 1998. She chose to do community health rather than private practice, and has worked with both adults and children–though she prefers to work with children because “kids are fun,” she explained.
MCHC Chief Medical Officer Matt Swain said, “Dr. Chen puts people at ease. She is great with kids and is able to help them relax. We’re so happy she joined our dental team.”
MCHC CEO Rod Grainger agreed, noting that both Lake and Mendocino Counties suffer from a shortage of dentists. Grainger said, “Our goal is to continually adjust to meet the evolving needs of our community, so bringing an experienced dentist to the area is a win.”
MCHC uses a team-based approach to provide dental, medical, and behavioral health care to people in Ukiah, Willits, and Lakeport.
MCHC Health Centers includes Hillside Health Center and Dora Street Health Center in Ukiah, Little Lake Health Center in Willits, and Lakeview Health Center in Lakeport. It is a community-based and patient-directed organization that provides comprehensive primary healthcare services as well as supportive services such as education and translation that promote access to healthcare.