Local dentist and his wife open center offering affordable care

The New Mexican – Ana Maria Trujillo – Dental care is out of reach for a lot of people, but Gabriel Roybal, a local dentist, and his wife, Teresa Roybal, who specializes in business, recently opened Northside Dental to offer free or low-cost dental care to people in the community. “The options are grim when someone is really struggling to put food on the table or pay their rent,” Teresa Roybal explained. “They are not going to spend $1,000 on a root canal.” The couple paid for the clinic themselves and have spent the last 10 months getting everything set up at the facility, 806 Calle Mejia. The equipment alone set them back about $500,000, but it is well worth it, they said. “It’s a project of faith,” Teresa Roybal said. “We believe in making an investment in the community.” The couple recently launched a campaign to promote the new clinic, which will be staffed by about six dentists and a few hygienists, who are all volunteering. The Roybals are no strangers to helping people. For many years, Gabriel Roybal has been providing free dental care through Villa Therese Catholic Clinic, La Familia Medical Center and United Way of Santa Fe. The couple noted that those interactions with patients are generally extractions and other extreme, last-resort procedures. At Northside Dental, Gabriel Roybal is going to focus more on prevention. “The earlier we intervene, the sooner we can get these people and they don’t have to deal with the nightmares” that occur after many years of dental neglect, Gabriel Roybal said. “It’s heartbreaking to see beautiful young men and women — because they don’t have the resources — where the only option they have is pulling their teeth,” Teresa Roybal said. “They don’t have the options down the road to replace those teeth.” Katherine Freeman, the CEO of United Way of Santa Fe, is grateful for all the work the Roybals have done for The Santa Fe Children’s Project over the last three years. She said the Roybals came to her three years ago to ask what they could do to help. “It’s one of the most generous offerings that we’ve had, and it came as such a total surprise,” Freeman said. The Roybals recruited other health practitioners, including chiropractor Bobby Perea, to provide free care to United Way families involved in the Santa Fe Children’s Project. “Dental care is one of the key health issues with our kids, and finding affordable care is almost impossible for these families,” Freeman said. “It’s just a gift of generosity almost not imaginable.” Freeman noted that Northside Dental is “just another demonstration of their generosity and compassion and willingness to give back to the community.” Gabriel Roybal and his volunteer team will continue to work with United Way families at Northside Dental. The Roybals give back to the community because they wouldn’t feel right if they didn’t. They run a successful, high-end dental practice on St. Michael’s Drive that is a fee-for-service practice, which Gabriel Roybal said is rare. “To be able to do that and not give back to the community doesn’t seem fair,” he said. He also expressed gratitude to his patients, who have helped make Northside Dental a reality. “We’re lucky to have this patient base who can afford (care), but that is a very small crowd who has the resources to pay $50,000, $70,000, $80,000 in one mouth to fix their problems.” “You reach a point in your life where you fulfill a lot of your own personal goals and business goals, and I think you learn a lesson as you get older that the greater reward is just outright helping people,” Teresa Roybal said. “It’s great to achieve success in business, but it doesn’t feel right to achieve business success and not really give back.” They also help because it’s much “easier to just take care of people than it is to go through the loops and hoops and rigmarole of Medicaid and Medicare and the government programs,” Gabriel Roybal said. “We just adopt (patients) and take care of them, and they come here and we see them. Everybody wins. They’re a pleasure to take care of.” Northside Dental opened its doors three months ago and patients are trickling in. The clinic features state-of-the-art technology, including digital radiology, laser technology and computerized records. “It’s one of the best things that the staff and doctors do because it’s such a rewarding experience,” Teresa Roybal said. “People are very grateful to have this opportunity.” “It feels great to be able to help people,” Gabriel Roybal said. “Very often people will come in and they’ve gone through so much grief and aggravation their whole life, they’re in tears. They’re so grateful for the care that you’ve given them and it’s priceless. I can’t think of anything more pleasurable.”

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