New D-backs dental suite is grand slam

New D-backs dental suite is grand slam

New D-backs dental suite is grand slam
PHOENIX -- Thanks to a $50,000 donation from the D-backs, underprivileged and special-needs children in Mesa will have a reason to smile when they visit the dentist.

With the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation awarding A.T. Still University one of its Grand Slam Awards, the university's Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health unveiled the new D-backs Pediatric Dental Suite at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday.

In attendance to help dedicate the two specialized rooms were D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall, who took time away from his role in the first day of the MLB Draft to make an appearance.

"It's a busy day, but it was important that I cut out this time because community is very important for us," Hall said. "It's special and it's a part of who we are as a brand and as an organization."

A.T. Still is one of five local organizations that will receive a grant from the club in 2012. Hundreds applied for the awards, then a narrowing process allowed finalists to give a presentation to the D-backs for how the money could make a difference.

A portion of the funds given to the university will provide dental care for children in low-income families. One of the families who have benefited from the school and provided testimony in the application process took part in the ceremony Monday.

Amber Middleton and her two daughters, Mackenzie, 10, and Alarae, 8, all get dental care at the school. Amber, who lost her job while her blind husband battles through liver failure, couldn't afford to pay for her family's dental care, and so she turned to the university for help.

"It would be very difficult without this place," she said. "I was honored to be able to go tell the D-backs about this school. Sometimes, it's embarrassing when you can't support your family and sometimes people treat you a little bit differently but there was none of that here. They gave us the best care."

More than the actual dental work done on her family, Middleton appreciates how the faculty and students treat her children. Her children enjoyed the experience so much, they asked to go back.

"I can't thank them enough, that's why I was thrilled that they asked my family to help because with how much they helped my family, I'm hoping this can now help even more," Middleton said. "Before this place, my kids were scared of the dentist. Normal places don't approach kids in a childlike manner. But here, they take their time here and get to know the kids. That helps their comfort level, that sort of personal touch where they feel important."

The new dental suites boast walls decorated with Chase Field murals and drawings of the club's mascot, Baxter. The rooms will be also used to provide a comfortable environment for children with special needs that were difficult to accommodate before.

"We knew that we needed an area that would provide care in a quiet way to certain patients," said Dr. Jack Dillenberg, the dean of the school. "Some of them have special needs like autism and need a little more attention. We wanted it to be so their parents could participate in that. These rooms make coming to the dentist fun. They let the child relax."

In addition to providing care to children while training at the university, 36 percent of the dental school's graduates go on to work at community clinics or in the military, according to Dillenberg. The way the instructors and students at the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health promote a lifestyle of giving back made it even more attractive to the D-backs.

"We're honored by the D-backs' generosity and support for the community," Dillenberg said. "That's what this school is about, community service. We take great pride in producing dentists in making a difference."

Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.