Something to Smile About
Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2018 4:48 pm
Meharry Launches Mobile Dentistry Clinic
In February, Meharry Medical College launched a mobile dentistry clinic to bring critical dental services to patients living in underserved areas across the state. With the announcement, Meharry became the first academic institution in the state of Tennessee to own and operate a mobile dentistry unit.
James E.K. Hildreth, PhD, MD
"Tennessee is facing a serious oral health crisis," said Meharry Medical College President and CEO James E.K. Hildreth, PhD, MD. "According to HRSA, only 29 percent of our state's dental health needs are met because there is a shortage of dentists. This makes it difficult for Tennesseans to receive even the most basic dental services. By launching this mobile dentistry clinic, we are further delivering on our mission of serving the underserved by providing care to those who need it right in their own hometowns."
Students and faculty of the Meharry School of Dentistry and members of the Meharry Board of Trustees joined Hildreth at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the launch of the mobile clinic. Hildreth expressed gratitude to the United Methodist Church, which helped fund the purchase of the clinic with a $300,000 grant, and to the Elgin Children's Foundation of Knoxville, which sold the mobile clinic to Meharry and shares the college's mission to provide dental care to the underserved.
The mobile clinic will be staffed by third-year dental students with faculty oversight. It is fully equipped with four dental chairs, a portable x-ray machine and office space. All treatments and exams typically given at a dental practice will be available to patients at the mobile clinic at reduced rates. The clinic also will accept most forms of insurance.
The clinic is already travelling to facilities across Tennessee to provide on-site care to children who are in state custody. In coming months, Meharry will also unroll a schedule of clinic stops at churches and senior centers in communities across the state with a shortage of local dentists. Specifically, Meharry will focus its outreach on communities in Appalachia in East Tennessee where the population faces the largest disparities in the nation when it comes to oral health.
Cherae Farmer-Dixon, DDS
"Poor oral health has been directly linked to some of the most vexing diseases in our nation, including heart failure, diabetes, strokes and even premature, low-birth weights," said Cherae Farmer-Dixon, DDS, dean of Meharry's School of Dentistry. "With the mobile health clinic, our students can now meet patients right where they are and provide critical dental services that they desperately need. We also will be partnering with area dental practices to ensure that those who visit in the mobile clinic have options for follow-up treatment should they need it."
Farmer-Dixon said service on the mobile clinic would prepare students well for their future careers. Many of Meharry's dental students will practice in communities similar to those the mobile clinic will be visiting. Of its alumni, more than 83 percent of Meharry School of Dentistry graduates practice in underserved areas and nearly 18 percent of all dental alumni set up practice in Tennessee.
UTHSC Helps Kids Keep Smiling
Last month, the College of Dentistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center participated in the American Dental Association's annual "Give Kids a Smile Day." Partnering with Freedom Preparatory Academy Charter School in Memphis, the College of Dentistry provided 1,105 procedures to more than 80 children valued at $22,188.
Give Kids a Smile Day was launched in 2003 by the American Dental Association to provide free dental services to children through the help of volunteers. The UTHSC College of Dentistry has participated in the national event for five years.
"This event is a win-win for both the College of Dentistry and the community," said John Seeberg, DMD, associate dean for Clinical and Extramural Affairs. "Our students are able to receive credit toward their degree for the dental procedures performed, and we are able to provide a much needed service to children in our community."