Orange County is fortunate to have a number of facilities and programs helping the disabled, from Fairview State Hospital to groups dealing with specific afflictions such as cerebral palsy or Down's syndrome. But while it generally is not too difficult to find doctors specializing in treating patients with disabilities, finding a dentist is another matter.
In fact, the California Dental Assn. says it knows of only one dentist in Southern California with a clinic targeting people with severe disabilities such as autism or Parkinson's disease: Dr. Jerry Minsky of Anaheim Hills. As anyone who has a disabled member of the family knows, the county is lucky to have Minsky, particularly since he accepts Medi-Cal payments.
Minsky is a Cal State Fullerton graduate who studied dentistry at Georgetown University. His clinic is at the Los Cerritos Mall, but much of the time Minsky uses hospital operating rooms, including Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Anaheim, and treats patients sedated by general anesthesia. The reason is that many of his patients either are difficult to control or cannot hold their mouths open for long periods of time.
Marge Thompson of Laguna Beach, who searched for someone to treat her 25-year-old autistic son, said that were he not sedated he probably would kick or bite the dentist during even the most minor dental treatment. Said Thompson, "I applaud what (Minsky) does, because it is not easy to deal with someone like my son."
Minsky said he began seeing patients with disabilities on a regular basis after a nursing home with several mentally retarded patients contacted him. Word of mouth brought him other patients.
His patients range in age from 2 to 95; their disabilities include cerebral palsy, autism, Parkinson's disease, severe arthritis and mental retardation. When a patient is poor, payment comes via Medi-Cal, the government-funded program for low-income patients that dentists say pays only about one-quarter what private insurance pays.
The need for dentists like Minsky will increase as our population grows older and suffers aging's accompanying maladies. It takes a special type of nurse, therapist or doctor possessing extra skills and patience to treat the disabled or infirm. It also takes a special type of dentist.