Social Work and Pediatric Dentistry

A Conversation with Dr. Alvin Amante

Dr. Alvin AmanteAlvin Amante, an Eastman Dental Pediatric Dentistry Resident, frequently works closely with Eastman’s department of  Social Work. Dr. Amante received a call from the after-hours answering service late one evening about a young child who was reportedly punched in the mouth by an adult and needed medical attention. However, when Dr. Amante called the family, he spoke with a male adult who would not disclose his relationship with the child. He did not know the child’s date of birth or pediatrician. He went on to say that the child was okay. That didn’t sit right with Dr. Amante, who persisted in calling the family, in an attempt to speak with the child’s mother, and to encourage them to bring the child in for treatment. After repeated calls from Dr. Amante, the family informed him that they had taken care of the problem and had brought the child to the emergency room.

Why did you keep calling back the family who originally called in?

My reaction to the situation was a gut response. As a pediatric dentist, I am a mandatory reporter who is obligated by law to report any suspicion of child abuse or child neglect. Aside from this responsibility, I could not help but feel concern for a child who might have been harmed, whether physically or emotionally. As a new father myself, I know how vulnerable children are and how they depend and rely on their parents for care. If an adult harms a child, I feel it is our responsibility as a community to step in to protect the child. With regard to this case, when I was not able to secure reliable information from the person I spoke with about how the child sustained an injury to her mouth, I contacted the on-call Social Worker at Strong Hospital for guidance. Through social work’s involvement, I was informed the child had not been treated at any area hospital emergency department, as claimed by the individual; they recommended I contact the police authorities, which I did. Social work subsequently filed a report with Child Protective Services. Although, I will never know the outcome of this case, I am hopeful for the safety and well being of this child.

Why is the social work component important in dentistry?

Through the years, I have been fortunate to work with social workers during my volunteer activities in Seattle and my residency program here at Eastman Dental. As a volunteer dental provider for homeless kids in a day shelter, I worked with tireless social workers who made sure that patients were seen and treated at our mobile van. The social workers remained available to support us with problematic patients struggling with emotional or drug problems. Here at Eastman Dental, I consider myself fortunate to be able to work with Lenora, Kim and the rest of the social work team. It is reassuring to have a social work presence to provide education and guidance to residents with regard to the myriad and diverse issues of our dental population. They emphasize that we do not just treat teeth but that we are part of a vast network and safety net that supports children and families in need.

Why do you want to be a pediatric dentist?

After completing my Eastman Dental AEGD residency in 2000, I relocated to Seattle and became part of a group practice. As I began to see more children in the practice, I found that I enjoyed treating them and was challenged by kids presenting with dental phobias or severe dental needs. Through my volunteer work with Medical Teams International, I also became aware of social inequities and oral health disparities faced by children living in homeless shelters in Seattle or in the shanties of Oaxaca, Mexico.

How did you become interested in dentistry?

I graduated from the University of the Philippines in 1993. I was the youngest of 8 children and most of my brothers and sisters had already chosen different professions. There was no dentist in the family, so that’s what I chose. There was no turning back after making that decision, and I have no regrets.

Describe your experience with Eastman Dental.

I started the AEGD residency here in 1998 and returned ten years later, in July 2008 for my Pediatric Dentistry training. I must say while working here at Eastman Dental, I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life and different corners of the world. I know the General Dentistry training I received at Eastman Dental served me well, and I am confident that at the completion of my Pediatric Dentistry training, I will be well positioned for professional practice.

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This entry was posted in Dental Care for the Indigent, Eastman Dental Center, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, Educational Program, Social Work Dentistry. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Social Work and Pediatric Dentistry

  1. Sandy Baker says:

    Pretty interesting background Dr. Amante!


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