White Marsh dentist donates his skills to residents of two homeless shelters

December 30, 1991|By Greg Tasker

Frank Selby hadn't been to a dentist in about six years.

The 25-year-old father of four, a laid-off truck driver who moved his family into a Baltimore County shelter for the homeless two months ago, didn't have plans to schedule an appointment any time soon.

But yesterday, Mr. Selby and 38 other people from two Baltimore County shelters had their teeth cleaned and examined, compliments of White Marsh dentist Charles Cieslik.

"It's been a long time since I've been to a dentist," said Mr. Selby, while sitting in the waiting room with three of his four children. "The kids go every six months or so."

Dr. Cieslik, whose practice is located near the White Marsh Mall, said he decided to provide free dental screenings to the homeless after noticing their numbers were growing.

"I thought with the holiday and all that this might be some way to give something back to the community," the 36-year-old Bel Air resident said. "Originally, I was going to see just children, but children can't come here by themselves."

Dr. Cieslik arranged to see residents of the county's two homeless shelters -- Hannah Moore School in Reisterstown and the YWCA Eleanor D. Corner House on Southwestern Boulevard -- through the county Department of Social Services.

"I found out going into this that there are no provisions for dental care for these people," Dr. Cieslik said.

He limited the free dental screenings to residents of Baltimore County shelters because he practices in the county.

Advanced Care Ambulance Co. of Carney provided a nine-seat passenger van to run patients from the shelters to Mr. Cieslik's office inthe White Marsh Medical Center.

Dr. Cieslik said his altruism would have been for naught had the ambulance company not stepped forward with free transportation.

"We make our money from people's hardships," said Joe Dulany, chief executive officer of the ambulance company. "We like to give something back. It makes you feel good."

Not knowing how long it would be before her three children saw a dentist again, Nora Hinton, a 27-year-old single parent who recently moved to the county from Washington, brought her family to Dr. Cieslik's office.

"I take my kids twice a year," she said. "I haven't been to a dentist in about eight months, since I had a tooth pulled. I don't go unless I'm in pain."

Dr. Cieslik found the homeless are no different than the general population when it comes to dental care. Parents, both homeless and otherwise, generally place greater importance on the care of their children's teeth than their own, he said.

"We have these stereotypes about homeless people and how they take care of themselves. It's not a pretty picture," Dr. Cieslik said. "But I've been real pleased with what I've seen today. The kids have been well-taken care of. It's been no different than what I see with my own patients every day."

Besides cleaning teeth, Dr. Cieslik filled a few cavities of patients who complained of pain. He doled out advice on tooth care and presented bags containing an apple, sugarless gum and a toothbrush to the 22 children.

Mr. Selby's children were as tickled by the dentist and his giant, balloon-like toothbrushes, as they were with the bags of goodies.

Six-year-old Derrick flashed a smile when he got the thumbs-up from Dr. Cieslik. The boy had no cavities. Neither did his sister, Sierra, 5, nor his brother, Deandre, 4.

Dr. Cieslik said he hopes to provide follow-up services for patients like Doris Hunter, who had three cavities. He also hopes to see other homeless patients.

"There are hundreds out there," he said. "They haven't been as lucky as these people. But I'm only one person."

For his part, Mr. Dulany said he would continue to provide transportation.

"If the doctor has the time, we do, too," Mr. Dulany said.

Ms. Hunter, who moved to a shelter two days ago, said she planned to be back.

"It's a great thing he's doing," said the 58-year-old former Woodlawn resident. "Someone ought to make him doctor-of-the-month."

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