Community Dental can accept anyone, and some patients are middle-class bargain seekers. "I just feel I'm getting the same quality and better care than at a higher-price location," says Charlotte Payne, a retired city housing inspector. "They have a care and a concern for everybody."
But most patients, says Neighbors, are struggling financially; some are homeless, and many are visibly agitated. That can cause "culture shock," she says, for the mostly middle-class students. When she told one woman she needed several teeth pulled, Neighbors recalls, the woman shouted and swore at her, then "stormed out. Their eyes got big," she says of the students watching. Neighbors says she told them, "'Look, she's not mad at me. She's mad at circumstances.'"
She hopes the students also appreciate that good dental care raises people's self-esteem. She recalls a homeless man who'd lost his teeth, and whom the clinic was able to provide with dentures. "He was so happy! He came in wearing new clothes; he was cleaner. The last time we saw him, his hair was combed, and he was starting to go around and interview for jobs."