John Tolley, September 12, 2018
For some people, going to the dentist is a potentially painful chore and a reminder of their lackluster flossing technique. Yet for others, this necessary medical care is a luxury beyond reach. Whether due to expense or lack of ready access to a dentist, they may forgo routine checkups, which can only serve to compound problems.
In Ohio, oral health care for children and at-risk populations tops the list of unmet health needs. Coupled with the fact that a full 45% of the adult population of the state lack dental insurance, these factors can lead to a decline in whole body health and give rise chronic medical conditions.
At The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, this need does not go ignored. For the past 16 years, fourth-year dental students have been diving deep into communities across the state to provide the care that so many go without.
Through the Oral Health Improvement through Outreach (OHIO) Project, the students put in 50 days of work, offering everything from simple checkups and cleanings to cavity repair, all under the supervision of licensed, associated faculty members. While travelling the state, the students hone their skills in a variety of clinical settings from college-based comprehensive and specialty clinics to community-based dental offices.
"The OHIO Project has been an enormously beneficial program for the college and for the state," said Patrick M. Lloyd, dean of the College of Dentistry, in a 2017 press release. "It not only helps Ohioans in need, but also provides invaluable experience for our fourth-year dental students who, as part of their curriculum, spend 50 days providing care in community clinics throughout Ohio under the direct supervision of our partner dentists."
Judging by the numbers alone, the OHIO Project has been a rousing success. In 16 years, well over 331,000 procedures have been performed on over 141,000 patients, totaling $17.1 million in free care for Ohioans.
The College of Dentistry also operates a specially-outfitted bus known as the Health Outreach Mobile Experience (HOME) Coach. This pediatric dental clinic on wheel travels to Columbus-area schools to offer basic oral care services to uninsured students and those on public health insurance. In addition to serving as a dental "home" for a number of children, the HOME coach provides hands-on training in pediatric dentistry for all senior students.
For more on how Ohio State's College of Dentistry makes community outreach an educational priority, visit the links above.