Traveling dentist gets to route of problems - East Valley Tribune: News

Traveling dentist gets to route of problems

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Posted: Monday, April 23, 2007 3:27 am | Updated: 6:26 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Phillip Hendrix is filling a niche market for the elderly, bedridden and those afraid of dentist’s offices.

The Chandler 39-year-old is a mobile dentist who takes his practice on the road, traveling throughout Maricopa County and parts of Pinal County. He sets up his two boxes of tools and his self-contained dental unit/mobile treatment console around his patients’ wheelchairs, recliners or beds.

“This population is the forgotten population,” said Hendrix, who graduated with his D.D.S. degree from the University of Iowa. “Most aren’t getting regular preventive care. I have to rely on staff and family members to follow through with their care.”

The majority of his travels are to assisted living centers, hospitals or private homes. His patients often are bedridden, combative, relying on ventilators or suffering from an illness that prevents them from driving to a dentist. The average age of his patients is 86.

“Oral hygiene is the lowest priority unless they have a broken tooth or abscess,” Hendrix said. “I’m going there putting out fires.”

A smaller number of his patients have dental fears or are afraid of going to public places. They prefer their home setting to get their teeth worked on.

Hendrix’s Chandler office, Coronado Dental Services, is just big enough for office space. No clients are seen there. Hendrix travels with a dental assistant and an equipment manager/driver. The three ride around in a green Honda Element, seeing between six and 12 patients a day.

Jennifer Story, a social worker and administrator at Family Care Homes in Mesa, said it’s hard to find dentists who can come into the homes and serve people with lower incomes.

“He does an amazing job dealing with different types of difficult dementia,” said Story of Mesa, who has worked with Hendrix about six years. “He has an extremely good bedside manner and is definitely humorous in times when we need him to be.”

Hendrix became interested in special-care dentistry after the niche market kept recurring in his life. For example, while doing a residency in Tucson at the former Kino Community Hospital, he had a special rotation working with people with mental and physical problems.

After graduation, a friend who worked at Coronado Dental persuaded him to become a mobile dentist.

“I decided to do it for a while. Nine years later I’m still here,” said Hendrix, adding he will continue as long as he can keep leaning over people’s beds and standing all day. “People I see truly need me. Knowing that helps me get up every morning. There’s nothing glamorous about it. The need is more than I can provide.”

When he’s not caring for people’s teeth, he’s volunteering with his church, Chandler Christian Church.

He also coaches his son’s T-ball and co-ed basketball teams.

He has a 3-year-old, Xavier, and a 7-year-old, Austin, and has been married to Monique for 13 years.

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