Dr. Lauren Czerniak, DDS, Recognized for Helping Populations with Disabilities

From a very young age, we are taught the importance of dental care. Brushing twice a day and flossing, as well as regular appointments with your dentist are important to help maintain a healthy smile and body. But for some Americans, a trip to the dentist is not so simple. Individuals on Medicaid, retirees, and adults with developmental disabilities can struggle to find a dentist that meets their financial and individual needs. Fortunately for Toledoans, The Dental Center of Northwest Ohio helps provide those individuals with proper dental care. And recently one of their dentists, Dr. Lauren Czerniak, was recognized by the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities for her work with special needs patients. 

Meeting a need in the area

The Dental Center of Northwest Ohio was founded in 1910 to provide dental care for underserved individuals in the Toledo area. At that time, they were serving 500 people. As of today, their services have branched out to six practices, with two clinics in Toledo. Some of the services provided include cleanings, fillings, exams, oral surgeries, emergency care, extractions, crowns, and dentures. 

The organization also participates in many community events where they provide services. The annual Give Kids a Smile program provides children in need with free dental services. Staff members also travel to local schools, senior centers, and community centers to provide oral health education and sometimes perform free oral health screenings. Volunteer dentists participate in CareNet, a program that sponsors free adult dental services to those without insurance, often to those who are homeless.  

Dr. Lauren Czerniak, also known as Dr. Lauren by her patients, has been with the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio for fourteen years, including her time working with the center while in dental school. During her time with the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio, she saw a need in the area for dentists working with patients with disabilities. These patients might require more individual attention during their appointments due to physical disabilities, such as individuals in wheelchairs, as well as adults with developmental disabilities. For some of these patients, traveling to Columbus or other larger cities would likely be necessary to meet their needs if it were not for the work of the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio. 

In a recent interview, Dr. Lauren explained that while dental schools prepare dentists to work with special population patients, not all dentists are willing. This could be due to lack of experience treating this population, lack of accommodations, or not feeling comfortable. 

There are many accommodations that need to be considered when working with adults with physical or developmental disabilities, such as larger rooms with space for wheelchairs or gurneys, extra time to spend with the patient, knowing how to best explain procedures to the patient and/or caregiver, and providing just a little more TLC. 

A passion for the career

 

“Everyone deserves to have equal care. No one deserves to have better care than another person,” said Dr. Lauren.  And in order to provide that care, she finds a variety of ways to help each individual. She has cleaned teeth while sitting next to her patients on the floor, sang songs with her patients to keep them comfortable, figured out ways to make toothbrush handles fatter so that they’re easier to grip, used x-ray shields as a weighted blanket to calm her patients, and more. And although working with these patients may require a little extra time and understanding, the outcome is worth it. 

 

“They’re super super appreciative,” Dr. Lauren explained. It is evident how much Dr. Lauren enjoys her job and working with her patients. “I really enjoy what I do. I live an hour and 10 minutes away from Toledo, and I drive an hour and 10 minutes each way because if I don’t, who will? You don’t go into dentistry for the money, you go into dentistry because you care about the people.” 

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