Ukiah, CA – MCHC Health Centers proudly welcomes its newest dentist, Dr. Kimi Bensonhaver, who is now caring for patients at MCHC’s Hillside Health Center in Ukiah.
Bensonhaver is an experienced dentist who believes her role is not only to take care of her patients’ immediate dental needs, but also to help reduce the fear of dentistry so people are willing to seek care on an ongoing basis, ideally preventing serious problems from starting in the first place.
“It’s kind of shocking that I became a dentist. I was terrified of my childhood dentist, so I understand,” she said.
Bensonhaver comes from a medical family, with her father being a psychiatrist and her mother, a nurse. She sees healthcare holistically, with dentistry being one part of the larger picture. During COVID, she completed a year-long integrative health course that covered topics from nutrition to sleep, movement, and the need for community.
“Everything that goes into your mouth affects your health. I want patients to understand how their choices relate to their health. That way, they can take care of themselves,” she said.
Bensonhaver is not only a dentist but also a yoga teacher and an avid hiker. She loves the outdoors; it is one of the things that drew her to this area.
She grew up on the East Coast, attended Vanderbilt University for her undergraduate studies, and then earned a degree in baking and pastry arts in New York. After working as a pastry chef, she decided to go back to school to become a dentist. (She jokes that she made the sweets that then created the need for her current line of work.)
After completing her dental degree at Loma Linda University in California, she moved to South Carolina, where she practiced dentistry from 2009 until the beginning of this year, always caring for underserved populations, including indigent patients, patients with HIV, and those served by a local a women’s shelter.
At MCHC, she will provide routine dental care for children and adults insured by Partnership HealthPlan of California.
“Whether I’m working with someone young or old, I want their dental visit as good as it can be. One patient said, ‘This is weird. I didn’t think I’d go to the dentist and end up laughing so much,’” she shared.
She said she is honest and clear with patients about what to expect, and even if that means imparting hard news, it is rarely as bad as the image dental-phobic people have in their minds.
“Quite a few people harbor unnecessary fears. I look my patients right in the eye and tell them what to expect. When you’re honest and forthright, people begin to trust you, and that is how good relationships start,” she said.
MCHC Dental Director Dr. Neha Sharma said, “Kimi is really good at making patients feel comfortable, and that’s important, especially when you’re in pain.”
Bensonhaver said she is pleased to be joining such a strong healthcare team at MCHC, and to once again be working for a federally qualified health center where patients can get medical, dental, and behavioral health under one roof.
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.