Community members showcased their pearly whites as they toured a new dental clinic in Angels Camp Monday.
Operated by the Mariposa Amador Calaveras Tuolumne (MACT) Health Board Inc., the facility is a small extension of the tribally owned nonprofit corporation’s clerical offices near the intersection of Main Street and Highway 4 in Angels Camp.
The organization provides medical, dental, behavioral, optometry and chiropractic treatment for about 10,000 patients of all ages and backgrounds across the four counties, but the new location in Angels Camp is limited to dental services.
The clinic will employ a single dentist, one hygienist and support staff, and expects to see between 1,200 and 1,500 established patients, according to Executive Director John Alexander.
Dr. Dennis Baluyut, or Dr. B, as many of his clients know him, is transferring from the organization’s San Andreas location, where two new dentists will be hired.
Baluyut joined MACT in 2016 as a staff dentist in San Andreas.
“He received his dental degree in the Philippines and has been working with the underserved across California since 2004,” Alexander said. “We are proud to welcome him as the manager of our new facility in Angels Camp.”
The clinic will fill a growing need for people of American Indian descent, low-income residents and retirees living off of the Highway 4 corridor, according to Alexander.
“It really fills the need of Denti-cal (Medi-Cal dental program) patients,” Alexander said. There are also “a lot of retirement folks moving into Murphys and this area from the Bay Area that are on Medicare. They need a place where they can get their services, so here we are.”
Appointment wait times at the San Andreas location have become increasingly long, and the wait time for the new clinic is already 17 days, Alexander added. The organization takes two walk-ins per day reserved for American Indian patients.
“It’s kind of small, but it has all the amenities,” Alexander said as he guided a tour of the 2,500-square-foot facility, which features three operatory rooms yet to be graced by wide-open mouths and unintelligible voices muffled by dental instruments.
The freshly polished tile floors were almost shiny enough to see reflections, and several measures were taken to facilitate a sterile and safe environment.
To minimize the spread of germs, many of the facility’s cabinets, doors and faucets are foot-operated.
A “state-of-the-art” exhaust fan is equipped with a built-in scrubbing system to constantly filter nitrous oxide (laughing gas) out of the air in one of the operatory rooms – one of two such systems in the country, according to Alexander.
Pediatric patients can watch movies on a flat-screen television and tune out the high-pitched whir of dental tools with disposable Bluetooth headphones as their teeth are cleaned.
The clinic also features an X-ray machine, a new breakroom and a small office for filing paperwork.
After the tour, open house attendees congregated in the lobby at the front of the building where a buffet was set up.
“We thank all the board members for working so hard to open up such a nice area for dental for folks through the community here,” said Debra Grimes, Calaveras Band of Mi-Wuk Indians tribal cultural resource specialist. “This is perfect for the community. What’s nice is that it’s open to everyone.”
Gloria Grimes, tribal chairwoman for the Calaveras Band of Mi-Wuk Indians, said she would transfer from San Andreas to the new location for dental services.
“I’m quite excited about them having dental here,” Gloria Grimes said. “I live in West Point, and I see the dentist down there now” in San Andreas. Dr. B is “so great that I’m going to follow him here.”
Grimes said she hopes the nonprofit can build a clinic in West Point in the future to address the need for elderly residents who may have to travel to Jackson or San Andreas for treatment.
To make an appointment, call 754-6262.