Bulletin of Dental Education

Project Homeless Connect Provides Experience for Students, Dental Hope for Homeless

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PHC at DugoniCollaboration between University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and San Francisco's Project Homeless Connect (PHC) is making a difference in the health of many underserved people. PHC events are held several times a year in the city's Civic Center to provide health and human services for people in need. Student and faculty members provide on-site dental screenings, and those needing additional urgent care such as extractions are driven to the school's Emergency Clinic or other participating community clinics.

Through a pilot project that ran from late 2009 to early 2010, the school increased its involvement by providing dentures for 10 PHC clients and three additional patients from the community. Volunteer prosthodontic specialists paired with school department members to demonstrate treatment procedures live and on video. The treatments were then repeated on PHC patients by student team members under the supervision of faculty. A total of 160 dental students were involved in providing dentures to the group of patients.

First-year dental students are schooled in creating dentures for patients on a mannequin, but often lack the "human factor" of the denture process prior to their clinical experience. "This human factor - patient comfort, input, feedback - is critical to the denture learning experience," said Dr. Peter Hansen, chair of the school's Removable Prosthodontics Department.

This project has allowed second-year dental students to hone their denture skills while interacting with patients. For the patients, the experience has given them the ability to chew and smile, improving their overall health and happiness.

"I thank University of the Pacific for its long-standing commitment to the people of San Francisco, particularly the most vulnerable," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom during remarks at the most recent PHC event held on February 24, 2010. "There's nothing more extraordinary than seeing someone come back here a few weeks or months [after treatment who] couldn't even smile, could barely eat before."

To see a video about dental services offered at Project Homeless Connect, visit http://www.youtube.com/pacificdental. Additional details about the program are at www.projecthomelessconnect.org.

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