Photo courtesy Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center

Photo courtesy Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center

San Diego philanthropists Gary and Mary West announced the grand opening of a nonprofit community center offering low-income senior citizens dental treatment in coordination with nutrition, case management and wellness services.

The 1,400-square-foot Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center is located on the second floor of the existing the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center at 1525 Fourth Ave. in downtown San Diego.

Many of the services offered at the new center are expected to be reimbursed by Denti-Cal, the dental component of Medi-Cal. Others will be provided on a sliding fee scale.

As part of the center’s focus on comprehensive care, patients will receive a comprehensive geriatric assessment by Serving Seniors, a San Diego nonprofit that provides seniors with meals, affordable housing, health education, support services and lifelong learning opportunities.

In addition, the Gary and Mary West Health Institute, a research organization, plans to study outcomes of the dental center’s coordinated care approach. Ideally, this will lead to data supporting replication of the model elsewhere.

Dental and oral care has been cited as a problem area for senior citizens. The lack of such treatment was listed as the biggest of eight health-related concerns in San Diego County’s 2012 Survey of Older Americans.

Initial assessments of 300 people who visited the West Senior Wellness Center suggest half had trouble eating, more than a third reported dental pain and one-quarter had not seen a dentist in more than five years.

“If we don’t do something to improve access for seniors, more and more older Americans will seek treatment in emergency rooms rather than in dental offices or clinics,” Gary West said in an Oct. 5 news release announcing the new center’s opening.

The center was funded by more than $2 million in grants from the Wests, as well as money from the California Wellness Foundation and San Diego County’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Program. The Wests have offered up to $250,000 in additional funding through matching grants.