Story and photo by Colleen Williamson
Originally published by the Parsons Sun
Oral health problems are typically more prevalent in people with developmental disabilities, increasing their need for quality oral care, but not every dentist is willing to accept them as patients.
Some residents of the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center are dually diagnosed with developmental disability and mental illness. Some also face physical disabilities making their oral care more challenging.
Every Friday, Dr. Jon Siebrasse accepts those challenges, as he steps into the fully functioning dental clinic in the small hospital on the grounds of the training center and readies everything to see those patients scheduled for the day, from among the more than 160 residents he serves.
Former PSHTC Superintendent Gary Daniels approached Siebrasse about taking on the position when their long-time dentist moved to Kansas City.
“I said, ‘No,’ and he kept coming at me every week at Rotary,” Siebrasse said. “Finally he said, ‘Just give me two weeks.’ That was 24 years ago. I’ve been here since 1993.”
As with any full functioning dental clinic, Siebrasse performs oral surgery, root canals, crowns and does fillings.
When necessary on Fridays, he goes to Labette Health working with the assistance of an anesthesiologist.
“It’s a last resort, though,” Siebrasse said. “We want to treat them in the least restrictive, least invasive environment.”
Siebrasse spoke softly to a client, as he went to work examining her teeth, assisted by dental hygienist Regina Cares.
“This is certainly completely different than my private practice office,” Siebrasse said. “Things here move at a different pace, the work occurs at a different pace, but the expectation of patient care should be the same in both places.”
Siebrasse has operated his private dental practice for 33 years.
“I could tell you all these nice things, like I’m a good guy and all that, but it’s just different,” Siebrasse said of serving the developmentally disabled. “You’re giving back to people that need you. You see reward for what you put out. It takes patience.”
“They like to talk, so we have to work through their talking,” Cares said, noting the connection they have developed with their patients through the years of care and treatment.
Familiarity with Siebrasse helps put his patients more at ease.
“Continuation of care is kind of important,” he said. “I know, no matter what level of competency they are at, they understand if someone has their best interest at heart.”
While quality patient care is a top priority for caregivers’ at the state, it is Siebrasse’s commitment to their care for 24 years that resulted in his nomination and selection as Oral Health Kansas Inc.’s 2017 Outstanding Dentist Award honoree.
While honored to receive the award, Siebrasse said it is not just him that makes a difference for the residents.
“People legitimately care about the (residents) here,” he said.
The award will be presented at the Excellence in Oral Health Awards reception Thursday at the K-State Olathe Building.
Each year, the organization honors outstanding individuals and organizations dedicated to improving oral health in Kansas.
Siebrasse’s long-time commitment and service to those with developmental disabilities earned him the recognition this year.
He is not planning on retiring any time soon and he looks forward to continuing to serve his patients, both at the PSHTC and in his private practice, though Siebrasse said he couldn’t do it without a great staff.
“The average tenure of my staff is 27 years,” he said.