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Get pearly whites at a low rate at CLC dental clinic

NataliKaminski student College Lake County's dental hygiene department listens as Dr. Anthony Steplyk confers with her mother BarbarKaminski prior teeth

Natalia Kaminski, a student in College of Lake County's dental hygiene department, listens as Dr. Anthony Steplyk confers with her mother Barbara Kaminski prior to a teeth cleaning. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 3, 2013 2:34AM

Teeth cleaning for a mere $15? No way, you say with a frown and a grin.

Well, it’s an open secret at the Lakeshore campus of the College of Lake County in downtown Waukegan where you can get it done at such a bargain price at the dental hygiene clinic. Without insurance coverage, teeth cleaning can cost as much as $250 in some dental offices. And it’s free for CLC students.

The clinic with 12 chairs is operated by the college’s dental hygiene department and it’s open to the general public. Since its inception in 2006, the clinic has served more than 10,000 people.

“It’s one way for us to give back to the community,” said Sue Nierstheimer, chairman of the dental hygiene department, part of CLC’s Biology and Health Science Division.

The spacious clinic on Genesee Street is fitted with what she calls “state-of-the-art” equipment for the practice, including instruments for radiology and sterilization.

“There’s nothing we don’t have here,” said Nierstheimer, who is a dental hygienist with 38 years of experience.

Sure, the cleaning, proceeded with an oral exam for cancer and an X-ray to screen for cavities and bone loss, is done by a dental hygiene student. But it is under the supervision of a certified dentist and a dental hygiene instructor to ensure quality control.

You may be a guinea pig, but you’ll probably leave the chair with a toothy smile, plus a freebie bag containing a tooth brush and tube of toothpaste as is done at most dental offices. In addition, you will be given instructions on oral hygiene, including basic information on how to brush your teeth effectively. The clinic does not offer such services as filling cavities or bridge work. You can, however, get your teeth whitened at extra costs.

Jeny Dacres, 43, of Waukegan, who had her teeth cleaned recently, praised the work done by a student as “very detailed.”

“I come here every six months,” she said. Dacres is a CLC student of bilingual education. As such, she gets her teeth cleaned for free.

She said her daughter, Alice, 12, and her aunt, Norman, 70, also visit the clinic regularly.

“Without insurance, it can be very expensive at an outside dental office,” she said appreciatively.

Lying nearby in another dental chair was Rene Palma, 33, a tattoo artist from Zion, who is an art student at CLC.

“They do a very thorough job here. Because they taught me how to brush and floss my teeth properly, I haven’t had any cavities,” he said.

The dental hygiene department offers a two-year program leading to an associate degree. Dental hygienists are in demand with hourly wages ranging from $28 to $34 for fresh graduates, according to Nierstheimer.

Angela Barshtak, said she has been driving to the school from Streamwood for the last two years.

“I drive 43 miles one way. That’s a lot of gas, but it’s worth it. I love what I do here,” said she as she was treating a patient.

“I’m working on my resume now,” said Barshtak who expects to graduate May 15.

Anton Eaton, 30, of Chicago, said he hopes to find a job paying more than $30 an hour as a dental hygienist after he graduates.

“I would like to get into pediatrician dentistry eventually,” he said.

CLC dental hygiene graduates usually pass their licensure exams with flying colors, according to Nierstheimer.

“They score very high,” she said.

For an appointment at the clinic, call (847) 543-2172. For first-timers, the clinic will conduct an interview to determine what needs to be done.

Usually, cleaning, preceded with an X-ray, is done at the second appointment.

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