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Clifton Park's Smile Lodge to open new building

Clifton Park's Smile Lodge to open new building

New facility will focus on treating region's impoverished youth
Clifton Park's Smile Lodge to open new building
An artist's rendering of the new Smile Lodge facility to be build on Pierce Road in Clifton Park.
Photographer: Kassie Parisi/Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK -- Smile Lodge, a pediatric dentistry practice on Pierce Road, will add a new building to its campus aimed at providing dental care to underprivileged children.

On Wednesday, the practice announced it will build an 11,300-square-foot, two-story building at 713 Pierce Road, with 13 treatment rooms for procedures such as dental fillings and other restorative work, said Smile Lodge dentist John McDonnell.

Final plans for the new office were approved last month, according to town Planning Director John Scavo. 

Construction of the first two-floor, 16,000-square-foot building at the Smile campus began in 2013, after a comprehensive environmental review of the site in 2012. As a result of the 2012 review, each building planned for the campus only needs a site plan approval to go forward, Scavo said.

The Smile Lodge has 120 employees, said McDonnell. 

Once the new building is finished, another 44 people -- ranging from administrative to clinical positions -- will be hired. Dental assistants, hygienists and dentists will be included in that mix.

An estimated cost for the new building was not available.

The Smile Lodge serves more than 45,000 patients across Saratoga and Schenectady Counties. A number of those are children who might not otherwise have access to dental care.

“This isn’t an average office. We are a group of people that are on fire with the idea that every single child deserves to smile,” McDonnell said.

Due to its size and partnerships with organizations such as the City Mission of Schenectady, Wildwood Programs and Head Start, the Smile Lodge is able to bring in children for annual appointments who might not be get to the dentist otherwise, due to financial or other restrictions.

Providing young children with dental services, McDonnell said, is an enormous challenge by itself, and many offices aren’t equipped with the technology -- or the staff -- to do so. 

That challenge is multiplied when a child is from a low-income family and has never been to a dentist before, McDonnell said.

“There are many barriers to treating children,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s not uncommon to see a young kid, 3 or 4 years old, with tons of cavities. Many doctors aren’t equipped to deal with young kids. There is a tremendous access-to-care problem in New York state and the country. We have to treat the kids nobody is treating.”

Mike Saccocio, executive director of the City Mission of Schenectady, commended the Smile Lodge on Wednesday for its ongoing commitment to treating children. 

“What you can tell is that the Smile Lodge has built a bridge into urban communities,” he said.

Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett also lauded the Smile Lodge for treating children indiscriminately and pointed out the the expansion of the office was just one more example of a burgeoning health care market in Clifton Park that has grown in recent years.

“This is indeed the Smile Lodge, and you know that because when you walk through the building, everyone is smiling,” Barrett said. 

For McDonnell and his staff, though, dental care for children goes hand-in-hand with another aspect of care they provide -- making children feel confident and worthy of receiving attention.

“Nobody sees these kids. But we see them,” he said.

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