2014 Campus News: Dental Clinic Has Lengthy History

2014 Campus News: Dental Clinic Has Lengthy History

The Home's dental world...according to Dr. Ben Williamowsky

Reminiscing about the Hebrew Home’s early days at 1125 Spring Road in Northwest DC, retired dentist Ben Williamowsky, left, Ben Williamowskytalks about the 1940s when local Jewish dentists turned out in impressive force to volunteer at the Home’s dental clinic. He himself joined their ranks in 1949, a year after graduating from University of Maryland’s Dental School.

“On Sundays, we had to wait in line to use the chair,” he recalls. 

This tradition of providing all-volunteer dental services continues today, and, although Dr. Williamowsky is retired, he continues to attend Dental Panel events.

“Our goal is to provide optimal dental care for residents,” says Dr. Richard Meltzer, chairman of today’s Dental Panel, adding “We’re dedicated to helping the elderly to maintain oral health and, in turn, enhance their quality of life.”

This is accomplished in two recently remodeled state-of the-art dental clinics — equipped with digital x-rays, modern cleaning equipment and, most notably, special technology that allows residents to be treated in their wheelchairs without having to transfer to a dental chair. A full range of preventive, restorative and prosthodontic care is offered to residents, and the volunteer dentists do not charge residents for their services.

Dr. Ben, as he’s affectionately called, has a bounty of stories to tell from his five decades of volunteer involvement at the Home. Here are two of his favorites:

The daughter of a resident once asked him if he would examine her mother, a beautiful woman whose remaining teeth were healthy but loose. When Dr. Ben completed treatment, the resident said, “I’d like to pay you now.”

“But there is no fee,” answered Dr. Ben.

“Well then, I’d like to sing you a song,” she said, before clearing her throat to croon in the sweetest voice, I Love You Truly.  Dr. Ben assured her that, because of this very fine performance, they now had reached a “square deal.” 

The second story Dr. Ben relates concerns a blind patient who asked, “Do you know me?”

“No,” the doctor replied. “Did we ever meet?”

“No,” said the patient, “but I know your father.”

"How do you know him?” asked Dr. Ben.

“I know his voice,” the patient said, “and you sound just like him.”  Dr. Ben’s father, Chaim Williamowsky, who passed away in 1971, was the respected rabbi at Southeast Hebrew Congregation for many years, a leader in the Jewish community, and a man who impressed upon his son the values of tzedakah, mitzvoth, and tikkun olam – charity, good deeds, and saving the world. That response, says Dr. Ben, “made me feel so good.”

Considering how good Dr. Ben and his colleagues have made our residents feel through the years, that’s another “square deal.”

Find more information about Dental Challenges for Seniors in our online newsletter archives



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