Left Behind: New Jersey’s Dental-Care Gap

Despite the efforts of pro bono dentists, oral health is a struggle for low-income families and others in need.

New Jersey Monthly July 2016

When Dr. Nicole McGrath first met Karen Hankerson at the Montclair Child Development Center, a federally funded HeadStart program, the 4-year-old had an abscess under one of her baby teeth. An abscess is the final stage of dental caries, the infection that causes cavities. It’s extremely painful; the infection spreads through the tooth, cracking holes in the enamel until pus pools in the gums. The rotten tooth had to be pulled.

Karen hated “anybody with a white coat,” says her mother, Kyisha Branch. But a gentle kindness in Dr. Nicole, as her patients call her, eased Karen’s fear. Karen’s mother had a different anxiety, which McGrath eased by offering to treat Karen’s abscess for free at her office in Montclair. “I automatically switched my family to her practice,” says Branch, who has four children. “The first visit was amazing. Karen clinged to Dr. Nicole so much.”

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