Dentist on wheels hired to give musicians free checkups

Bandleader and drummer Leon Jordan is X-rayed by hygienist Cheryl Luzetski. His wife Phaedra, left, gets her turn. The Grammys' MusiCares hired the serivce for area musicians.

Cecil Parker is blessed with a stunning smile, and because that toothiness is integral to his stage appeal, the 39-year-old singer from Old City signed up early when he heard the mobile dentists were rolling into town.

Parker got X-rays, a cleaning, and several fillings fixed on a recent Friday morning when California-based dentist Elliot Schlang and his team of traveling technicians came to Philadelphia at the behest of MusiCares, the national nonprofit arm of the Grammys.

The annual Grammy Awards were just bestowed Sunday. But MusiCares works year-round on behalf of musicians in need, providing emergency expenses in some cases to pay the rent, giving financial aid for addiction treatment, and offering free annual dental clinics by Schlang's Mobile Dentists, a business hired by schools, day-care centers, and nonprofits for one-day clinics.

On Jan. 28, the dentist and three hygienists set up shop in the fourth-floor offices of the Recording Academy of Philadelphia, in the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue at Broad and Walnut streets, using all the standard assemblage of air compressors and anesthesia, pastes, picks, rinses, and needles you'd find in any stationary dental office.

There, Parker and about 20 other singers, songwriters, and saxophonists were treated - and with dignity.

"This is really cool, especially with the economy," Parker said just before he opened wide. "Anything medical gets expensive these days, so I think it's really kind and thoughtful of them to let us have this service."

Performers like Parker (he has headlined at casinos in Las Vegas and on cruises to New Zealand, sung the national anthem at Sixers games, and toured Europe) may have an abundance of talent, but not enough of what Woody Guthrie once famously called the do-re-mi, says DeeDee Acquisto, who runs New York-based MusiCares.

Phaedra and Leon Jordan, a husband-and-wife team from Reading, arranged to receive dental exams, too. He's a bandleader and drummer; she's a manager. Together, they run the 10-piece Renaissance Orchestra, performing at weddings and other special events in the Philadelphia area.

Business is usually slower in the winter months, Phaedra Jordan said, but even when times are good, the couple cannot afford health care.

On this day, Schlang treats Leon Jordan for a recurring problem with gum recession and fills a small cavity for his wife.

Numb from his treatment, Parker, who says his style is similar to that of Marvin Gaye and Al Green, managed to sing a ditty or two despite his condition. Then, as an aside he whispered, "I hate this.

"Bottom line," Parker said, "you're still seeing the dentist, and that's no fun."

Reach staff writer Dianna Marder at 215-854-4211 or

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