Ribbon cutting opens new dental clinic in Presidio

PRESIDIO – The first ever full time dental practice in Presidio opened Tuesday at 1501 N. Erma Avenue. Doctors Manuela “Nelly” Avila and Jeremy Velasquez, both doctors of dental surgery, are now providing check ups, teeth cleanings and more. On Tuesday, the clinic hosted a ribbon cutting and welcomed their first patients.

The clinic is an extension of Preventative Care Health Services and shares a building with the local pharmacy and other PCHS medical practitioners. “[Presidio has] had dentists come in maybe once a month, very infrequently, but as far as a full time local dental practice, we will be the first,” said Cynthia Esquivel, the chief operating officer at PCHS.

The new clinic has applied to be in insurance networks but is awaiting approval, which takes one to three months. But you do not need insurance to receive dental care there. There is a “sliding scale” that patients can apply for if they need financial assistance and discounted rates for their care.

The dental clinic is offering a limited time coupon for patients that includes a comprehensive exam, a full set of x-rays and a plan of treatment for $75, which can be used until December 31, 2019.

During their busy first week open, Dr. Avila and Dr. Velasquez spoke with The Presidio International to share a little more about themselves and their work.

The two doctors met in their first year of dental school at Texas A&M University College of Dentistry (formerly known as Baylor College of Dentistry) in Dallas. Dr. Avila is originally from El Paso, and Dr. Velasquez is from Fort Stockton; the pair are now engaged to be married.

When searching for jobs, they had hoped to return to West Texas. “Presidio is somewhat middle ground from both families, which is what we wanted,” Dr. Velasquez said. When an aunt told them about openings in Presidio, the pair arrived for tours, introductions and interviews. Soon, they had accepted the roles and were on their way to Presidio.

“We’ve been here less than a month, but the community has been extremely welcoming and inclusive. We’ve been invited to PTO meetings, city council meetings, hospital board meetings and even birthday parties,” Dr. Velasquez said. They’re also enjoying the scenery Presidio has to offer. “We love hiking and exploring state and national parks, so being surrounded by the beautiful mountains every day is a plus,” he said.

For those Spanish-only speakers looking for a cleaning, Dr. Avila is fluent in Spanish, as it is her first language. Dr. Velasquez said he can get by with the clinical terms, but struggles trying to maintain a full Spanish conversation, because he did not learn it much at home – his parents were punished for speaking Spanish in school, a common occurrence across Texas in previous generations.

There are no dental hygienists on staff to assist the dentists yet because the clinic is starting off as a small practice. “We are doing it all until we get a flow of patients that will require the additional help of a hygienist,” Dr. Velasquez said. The new dental clinic is currently accepting appointments with Dr. Velasquez and Dr. Avila.

The new clinic came to life when a wing was added to the medical building to incorporate dental services to help with the overall health of patients. Dr. Vasquez said, “Most people around the nation don’t understand that oral health is linked to their overall health, so it’s a huge benefit that the dental clinic is under the same roof.”