A Socially Conscious Pediatric Dentist

Champions for Children

Christopher Harvell and his wife, Lezli Levene Harvell, owners of Dental Kidz (Photo by Rayon Richards)

All dentists who work at Dental Kidz are pediatric specialists who’ve attended school an additional 24 to 36 months beyond the training it takes to become a dentist. However, specialty training is not the only requirement. The Harvells say Dental Kidz dentists must also have a great manner with the children and share the Harvells’ vision of all children having access to care, regardless of socio-economic status.

In spite of all the effort, energy, and capital the Harvells invested in Dental Kidz, they faced some resistance from the community and the insurance companies who weren’t sure if Dental Kidz was coming to Newark to take advantage of the population. Residents also didn’t know if the practice was really a community clinic in disguise. “There’s a lot of bad press out there about healthcare providers who work in low-income areas that take Medicaid as reimbursement,” says Levene Harvell. “So people didn’t know if our intentions were pure.”

But in the end it was community involvement and altruism that convinced residents that Dental Kidz had Newark’s best interests at heart. The couple won over residents’ trust by doing everything from providing free comprehensive oral exams to visiting churches, preschools, and even mommy groups to speak and educate the community about the importance of pediatric oral healthcare. “We really engage the community as partners,” Levene Harvell says. “We have a culture of involving everyone that is responsible for the well-being of the child.”

Over the next three to five years, the Harvells hope to expand their social dental practice model regionally, even nationally. “What we have done here with Dental Kidz is show that you can have a profitable business model by treating the medically underserved,” says Harvell. “We have the opportunity to be a double bottom-line company that has a tremendous social impact. We’ve been able to prove that you can make money by doing good.”