Dr.Bicuspid.com: Leaders in Dentistry: Dr. Karen Becerra

Leaders in Dentistry: Dr. Karen Becerra

By Theresa Pablos, DrBicuspid.com associate editor

June 6, 2017 — DrBicuspid.com is pleased to present the next installment of Leaders in Dentistry, a series of interviews with researchers, practitioners, and opinion leaders who are influencing the practice of dentistry.

Dental care is out of reach for many senior citizens in the U.S. Often, the inability to get to a clinic coupled with high out-of-pocket expenses are insurmountable barriers for adults age 65 and older, many of whom are struggling just to get by. Dr. Karen Becerra wants to fix that.

Karen Becerra, DDS, MPH

Karen Becerra, DDS, MPH. All images courtesy of John Aristizabal/West Health. Karen Becerra, DDS, MPH, is the CEO, dental director, and co-founder of the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center in downtown San Diego. The nonprofit clinic has been open for about 10 months and specializes in serving low-income seniors.

“The majority of the seniors who we work with live on $850 a month. That leaves them about $5 a day of discretionary income,” Dr. Becerra said in an interview with DrBicuspid.com. “When they have to make choices — for food, rent, and medications — dental is simply not part of that equation. It’s not that they don’t want to get the care they need. It’s just that they simply cannot afford it.”

So far, Dr. Becerra and her team have helped more than 500 seniors by providing comprehensive dental care and oral health education. The services provided are what you’d expect from a dental clinic — dentures, partials, fillings, extractions, and crowns, she said. However, because many of the patients are missing teeth and have not seen a dentist in decades, even typical dentistry has a big impact.

“People are writing us, sending us cards, telling us the impact this is having, changing their lives,” she said. “We’re not doing anything fancy. We’re not doing aesthetics. We’re basically just restoring function and taking them out of active disease.”

While Dr. Becerra finds working with older adults challenging and rewarding now, it’s not what she originally set out to do. She thought she was going to be a pediatric dentist.

Please read the full article on DrBicuspid.com (free registration required).