Healthy Teeth for Every Child

. July 15, 2013.

When you meet Dr. Raymond Maturo in his bright, colorful pediatric dental office in Ann Arbor, one of the first things you notice is his calm, deliberate manner, perfect for reassuring nervous children and, more importantly, their parents, at what might be their first visit to a dentist. “My goal is to minimize any stress,” he says, “But obviously there are going to be kids that are upset and crying. The worst isn’t the kids getting upset; it’s the parents. That’s a far bigger stressor. I can deal with the kids because I’m at a stage where I know if I’m doing something that the child has no pain, and still they’re crying, I know why they’re crying. Sometimes I can help that and sometimes I can’t. I know they’re not crying because I’m hurting them. But the parents don’t understand that, so anytime the child cries, they assume I’m doing something to hurt their child, and that can make it very difficult.” But, he also understands parents’ concerns. He and his wife, Ann Mulhern, have four grown daughters.

Drawn to pediatric dentistry

Dr. Maturo began practicing dentistry after graduating from the University of Michigan Dental School in 1982, and has been specializing in pediatric dentistry since completing the Pediatric Graduate Program at U of M in 1986. He grew up in Pontiac, the son of a schoolteacher father. In high school he found himself drawn to healthcare, and eventually chose dentistry over medicine because he wanted work that would enable him to spend time with his family. “I really liked my dad’s lifestyle as a school teacher. He had time for his family.”

Serving community kids

He’s also made time for children other than his own. He serves on the board of directors of the Washtenaw Children’s Dental Clinic, which provides free dental work for underserved children, and regularly takes referrals from the Clinic in his own office. For the past six years he’s been teaching at the University of Michigan Dental School and has brought some of his residents into his office to also do free dental care.
And just so you don’t think he’s a total stickler for dental hygiene, there is the annual Halloween party he’s been hosting since 1991. “Yes, in the spirit of Halloween, we give out candy and lots of it, plus donuts and cider.” Around 300 children attend each year. Probably the most memorable year was 1992, when a bank robbery took place right next door while the party was in progress. “At least six police cars pulled up in our drive and ran through the party with their shotguns.  Of course the robbers were already gone, so we got some good pictures with the police officers.”

Healthy Kids Dental

And while Dr. Maturo is soft-spoken and even laconic in his office, he’s not reluctant to express some strong opinions. Talking about his gratis work, he says, “It’s just scratching at the surface. There are so many kids underserved. A third of all kids in Michigan are in poverty. We could really solve dentistry for children in Michigan. There’s really an easy solution in my mind. It’s not that expensive. There’s an alternative program that about half the kids in Michigan are on, called Healthy Kids Dental. Healthy Kids Dental pays about twice as much reimbursement, so it’s probably enough where we could do it and maintain a business. It would cost about $40 million dollars to extend Healthy Dental Care throughout the State of Michigan, but with the way the economy has been…” his voice trails off.

Wants and needs

“Americans have wants and needs confused. They want lots, they want to pay for lots, and they resent paying for needs, but they still want somebody else to provide the needs for them. I feel like I’m in the needs business, I’m trying to provide what I think is a really important need, health care, but I don’t feel it’s well respected by our society.”