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It’s a rare student who doesn’t end up sporting shiny metal braces on their teeth at some point.

Estimates indicate as many as 70 percent of Americans have orthodontic treatment as children or, increasingly, as adults to straighten teeth, correct bite problems and align facial features.

Community Health Centers of the Central Coast Dental Department is offering a new option for affordable orthodontic services through its dental clinics in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Nipomo and Templeton.

Dr. Raj Lotwala recently returned to Nipomo to start CHC’s new orthodontic program.

Lotwala is a member of the American Association of Orthodontics and a recent graduate of the Department of Orthodontics of the University of Washington School of Dentistry,

“I’m coming back home,” said Lotwala, who previously worked at CHC as a dentist. His parents also live in Nipomo.

More than 100 people already have expressed interest in CHC’s orthodontic program. Lotwala noted that typically orthodontic practices average about 80 percent children.

“The most popular age for braces is 12 when the permanent teeth have erupted,” he observed. “But here, a lot of adults have expressed interest, too. About half of our list is adults.

“Orthodontic treatments for children generally take about two years. For adults, it can be a bit longer,” Lotwala said, explaining there are more treatment options starting early for kids.

“We’re still getting the list together and starting screenings,” he said. “The first appointment is a free screening, and then we’ll take photos, impressions and radiographs and then consult on treatment options.”

While Lotwala said orthodontia is not a “life-or-death need,” he explained 40 percent to 75 percent of the population can benefit from it.

Orthodontic services are rarely covered by insurance plans, but CHC will offer monthly payment options.

“We will be quite competitive in terms of prices,” Lotwala said.

CHC also will offer several options in dental braces and extras like holiday-themed rubber bands for them.

“We’ll try to make it fun,“ Lotwala said.

In introducing the new program, CHC Chief Executive Officer Ronald Castle said, “We are committed to making it as easy and affordable as possible for our patients to get quality orthodontic care.”

For more information, contact the CHC Dental Department in Nipomo at 929-3254.

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