How far will a dental school go to serve the children of its state? Really far, literally, if it’s the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry. For its Children’s Dental Day VI, June 4 and 5 of this year, dental and dental hygiene students, faculty, and staff traveled 400 miles on a seven-plus hour journey to take their free dental clinic to children in western Nebraska.
The trip to provide oral care for 100 children from Alliance and Hemingford, Nebraska, was also notable for the collaboration between the dental school and practicing dentists, many of them the school’s own alumni. “We have never been able to get any help for these kids out here because we are so far away,” said Donald “Cork” Taylor Jr., D.D.S. “When I shared with Dr. David Brown [Professor of Oral Biology and Executive Associate Dean] our interest in having students and faculty bring their Dental Day clinic to Alliance, he said: ‘I don’t know how and I don’t know where I will get the funds, but I will come to Alliance.’”
Every dentist who practices in Box Butte County helped to provide free dental screenings in preparation for the event, Dr. Taylor said. Dental students and faculty treated patients at four sites: Box Butte General Hospital, and at the private offices of Dr. Taylor, Dr. Paul Maxwell Jr., Dr. Gene Giles, and Dr. Justin Moody. Other dentists who provided advance screenings were Dr. Gary Christensen and Dr. Sam Jacoby.
To take Children’s Dental Day “on the road,” more than 70 faculty, staff, and students of the college transported 11 portable operatories, which include a patient chair, and all the instruments needed for comprehensive restorative care and cleanings, as well as supplies to provide fluoride treatments, sealants, and cavity fillings. This is the first time the college has taken its services to a rural community; in the past, Dental Day clinics have been held on the college campus in Lincoln.
As a key part of the traveling team, dental hygiene students cleaned, sealed, and performed fluoride treatments at the Burkholder Building in Alliance, where children and families were treated to lunch and a festival with educational games, movies, and face painting. Dental hygiene students from the west division program in Gering, Nebraska, also participated. They had been receiving much of their classroom education via teleconferencing from the College of Dentistry in Lincoln to the Panhandle Community Services Health Center in Gering.
Telecommunications also played an important role in Dental Day VI. Children in need of more complicated procedures were treated at the Box Butte General Hospital, so they could benefit from the advice and recommendations of specialists in Lincoln. Using videoconferencing equipment, periodontists, oral surgeons, oral pathologists, and a restorative dentist back at the college were able to observe the examinations electronically and provide input as needed.
“It was a great success,” said Dr. Brown. The value of the project was proven, he said, when a young patient with what looked like warts on the back of her tongue was diagnosed with simply having enlarged tissue, much to the relief of her parents who saved time and money by not having to travel to Lincoln for diagnosis.
“I am impressed that students and faculty from the College of Dentistry in Lincoln were willing to travel so far to serve the needs of western Nebraska’s underprivileged children,” Dr. Taylor said. After the program ended, students and faculty were treated to a cookout in his backyard where they dined on steaks donated by a local grocery store.
Sponsors of Dental Day VI include Ameritas Life Insurance Corp., Nebraska Chapter of the International College of Dentists, Nebraska Dental Association, Nebraska Dental Hygienists’ Association, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Department of Education, Procter and Gamble, Sullivan-Schein, Academy of General Dentistry, Hu-Friedy, Patterson Dental Supply, Oral-B, Ultradent, 3M ESPE Dental Products, and numerous local and regional businesses, organizations, and individuals.
Reporting for this article by Lisa Spellman,
UNMC Public Affairs.