William Hall said he had his first steak in three years Wednesday night.
Hall, 71, who has Parkinson's disease, was sitting Thursday in a brand new dental chair at Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine's expanded dental care center.
The Northport resident has been coming for more than a year to the center located on the main campus after he lost 35 pounds because his dentures didn't fit, preventing himfrom eating solid food. In September, dentists put in eight implants and now he was getting refitted for dentures.
"My mouth felt fine and there was no pain," he said.
Hall is one of 13,000 patients who get dental care either at the center or in the dental school's mobile van each year -- officials said the school is the largest provider of dental care on Long Island.
On Oct. 24, the school celebrated the opening of its expanded center. With $3.17 million from a state grant and $1.6 million from the dental school, it added 35 new "operatories," state-of-the-art open dental offices where students treat patients for a full range of services under faculty supervision.
Chief resident Dr. Lauren Greco, who said she had taken over Hall's case in May, said the new operatories "have more of a private practice feel. It's quieter and more private."
Greco was working under the watchful eye of Dr. William Greene, a periodontist in Huntington and one of the 70 part-time faculty. There are also 39 full-time faculty for the four-year school's 168 students.
"I like to teach," Greene said. "The point is we can service people who otherwise couldn't get treatment at a cost the patient can deal with."
Dr. Allan Kucine, acting chair of the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery, said fees can be about half of what is charged in private practice. Most people pay out of pocket, he said, although 29 percent are on Medicaid.
Many patients also are complex cases, he said, including people with disabilities that private dentists may not be able to treat.
Both the dean of the dental school, Dr. Ray Williams, and Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, dean of the School of Medicine, said the expansion reflects the university's commitment to treat people who otherwise might not get dental care.
"For me one of the things I really pride ourselves on is reaching out to the community," Kaushansky said.
Williams said a sense of public service is something he looks for in dental school candidates. The school gets 1,400 applicants for 42 slots in each class, he said.
Resident Dr. Carissa Campos, who was working on Anthony Pontillo, 50, of Sound Beach, said she hopes when she finishes her one-year residency to work in a national program for underserved patients that will help repay her dental school loans.
In the meantime, she said she loved the new digs. "It's so nice I don't want to leave," she said.