Spring 2018

Three Questions for Clinic-Builder Israel Adeloye

How do you start a clinic from scratch in rural Maine?

By Courtney Hollands

After residing in Boston’s Chinatown for five years and working at Mattapan Community Health Center while studying at Tufts, Israel Adeloye, D14, MPH15, was tired of city life. So when he interviewed for the dental director position at Sacopee Valley Health Center (SVHC) in Porter, Maine, he first noticed the peace and quiet. “I grew up in a rural setting in Nigeria,” Adeloye said. “It was similar.” But Adeloye was even more excited about developing and staffing a new dental program at the center to serve low-income patients in Maine and New Hampshire. The clinic opened in August 2015, and Adeloye’s work there helped earn him the 2017 Excellence in Oral Health Award from the Maine Primary Care Association. Here, he talks with Tufts Dental Medicine about finding inspiration at Tufts and why educating kids about oral hygiene is so important.

How do you begin to design a dental clinic to fit the needs of an underserved area?

When I arrived at Sacopee, there were four dental chairs installed. The first thing I had to do was start buying materials and ordering equipment. I said to myself, time to go back to Tufts. So I visited One Kneeland Street and just started walking down the hall. Anything I saw that I liked, I wrote it down. Most of the things we have in the facility right now, they are copied from Tufts.

What are some of the challenges you face in the community?

When we started, we were dealing with two things: People who hadn’t seen a dentist in a long time and people who were used to getting pain meds and antibiotics for dental pain. People had this assumption that when you have a problem with a tooth, you get it taken out. They would come in for a simple extraction and then want a Vicodin or Percocet. I don’t blame them—most of them were used to that routine. It took us a little while to break them out of the habit. When we started it was like putting out a fire. There were a lot of extractions and emergencies. Slowly, we started getting into restorations, more crowns and root canals.

Have you been able to convince people to practice good oral hygiene?

Many of our patients have real problems. Some of them don’t have running water; they are poor, and dental health just isn’t a priority. I get that. We’ve been working on oral hygiene a lot, especially with the children. We’ve collaborated with a local school. Some of the mothers and fathers we see are 30 or 35, and completely edentulous. Their children think that you’re supposed to lose your teeth. We tell them if you take care of your teeth, they should last almost a lifetime.

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