Bulletin of Dental Education

Fones Dental Hygiene Clinic’s Senior Smiles Program to Help Low-income Senior Citizens

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For years, low-income senior citizens in the greater Bridgeport, CT area have received top-quality care from the Fones Dental Hygiene Clinic at the University of Bridgeport. The clinic offers oral examinations, prophylaxis (teeth cleaning), radiographs, sealants, fluoride treatments and more at minimal fees. However, for more extensive procedures, patients had to be referred to off-campus public facilities, many of which are already operating beyond capacity.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Delta Dental Foundation of New Jersey, the country’s largest dental plan administrator, the Fones Dental Hygiene Clinic will soon be able to provide limited dental care services onsite through a program called Senior Smiles. Beginning in July 2020, Senior Smiles patients will receive free basic dental care at the Fones Dental Hygiene Clinic. 

Among Bridgeport residents, 25% of men and 29% of women aged 65 years and older live below the poverty level. This translates to over 8,000 Bridgeport seniors, not including low-income seniors who are not Medicaid eligible or lose their dental insurance upon retirement, making it difficult to find affordable insurance.

“When seniors retire, they lose their dental insurance, thus we have a high population of geriatric patients in our clinic with age-related conditions such as coronal and root decay, receding gums, and unaddressed tooth loss,” says Marion Manski, RDH, M.S., Director of the Fones School. “Our dental hygiene students, and surrounding senior community centers and health facilities, will be able to refer them to the Senior Smiles program.”

Jennifer Boyce, D.M.D.

Jennifer Boyce, D.M.D., the clinic's lead attending dentist, says Senior Smiles will help many low-income seniors who lack the financial means to cover the cost of private dental care and dentures. “We’ll be able to provide basic procedures, like fillings, extractions and removable prostheses like dentures and partials,” Dr. Boyce says.

Dr. Boyce expects to complete dental services for up to 200 patients 65 years and older in the opening phase of Senior Smiles. Following the initial grant period, future plans include expanding the program with dentists and other dental providers by adding a dental therapy focus to the school’s master’s degree curriculum. “Our clinic is the first dental hygiene school in the world,” Prof. Manski shares. “This pilot program will show that we can provide dentistry as well dental hygiene to further serve this specific underserved population, who cannot afford dental care.”

The Delta Dental grant is also supported in part by Centrix of Shelton, CT, which has donated materials to the program.

For more information on the Fones School of Dental Hygiene at the University of Bridgeport, call (203) 576-4137, or visit bridgeport.edu/fones.

Published on March 11, 2020

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