MESA, Ariz. (May 21, 2008 ) – ATSU’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health received a $29,745 grant from the Arizona Community Foundation to complete funding for a project that will bring portable dental treatment to those in need in rural Pinal and Gila counties.
The grant complements a $114,000 Arizona Department of Health Services oral health grant awarded in December and allows ASDOH’s service-learning program to implement its full scale of targeted outreach services for the disadvantaged/underserved and those with special needs.
“This generous grant from the ACF will help us purchase state-of-the-art cavity detection equipment, as well as necessary dental supplies and instruments. In addition, we can purchase technology necessary to send digital X-rays and photos back to the dental school for specialist consultation,” says Mary Busch, RDH, associate director for clinical and educational outreach and director of the program. “Our dental students will be taught dental service delivery with 21st century technology, and the patients receiving care in rural Arizona will enjoy the best, high-tech dental care we can provide. When dentistry is delivered with care and compassion, coupled with modern technology and affordable cost, it only stands to reason that positive outcomes will result. It’s our dream to expand our ‘sphere of service’ in the coming years and provide services to more low-income residents; however, we realize that first we must nurture relationships with our community partners and provide effective education and extraordinary dental care to the residents of rural Arizona.”
The Dental Outreach for Rural Arizona project will be focused on Pinal and Gila counties, where the need for dental care is exceptionally high compared to the rest of the state, and dental resources and access to care are limited. Pinal and Gila counties face a shortage of dentists, and the unemployment rate and poverty level are higher than the state average. The project will serve Head Start children and families, school-aged children, the elderly, and those with special healthcare needs.
As part of the program, an oral health education and community awareness campaign also will be launched to inform the target population about the importance of prevention and treatment of oral health problems, as well as available services.
In addition, Dental Outreach for Rural Arizona will help ASDOH fulfill its mission of educating caring, technologically adept dentists who become community and educational leaders who are willing and able to serve as a resource in their community for dental public health issues. Toward that end, ASDOH will implement a service-learning rotation as part of Dental Outreach for Rural Arizona, through which up to 27 fourth-year dental students will participate in a four- to six-week rotation delivering care to these patients.
According to Dr. Wayne Cottam, associate dean for community partnerships at ASDOH, “Dental Outreach for Rural Arizona will enhance student knowledge of oral health disparities, promote appropriate perceptions of rural and underserved practice, and improve dental students’ clinical skills with a variety of patients. From a community health perspective, underserved individuals from rural communities will gain access to quality oral healthcare and, when appropriate, be given needed referrals for additional primary care services. Dental Outreach for Rural Arizona hopefully will provide a long-term, sustainable infrastructure for the promotion and delivery of oral health services throughout the targeted counties. And because poor oral health impacts a person’s overall health, by treating their dental needs Dental Outreach for Rural Arizona will improve both the health and quality of life of those we serve.”