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Students Offer Seniors Oral Health Hope

Feb 09, 2016

By Dean George

Call it dental takeout, mobile dentistry or dental treatment to-go, but more Cleveland-area seniors are receiving complete dental care compliments of a new Ohio dental school initiative.

More than 95 seniors received dental treatment by the end of January aboard Lifelong Smiles, a renovated 38-foot recreational vehicle. For some, it has been a decade since they have seen a dentist.

Case Western Reserve University created the new Geriatric Dental Program last August, allowing nursing home and assisted-living residents to obtain full-service oral care aboard the retrofitted RV dental clinic. Almost 500 residents and nursing staff have participated in oral health education as part of the program’s outreach.

The 38-foot RV was donated by the Ohio Department of Health and is equipped with two operatories, or dental treatment areas, where patients receive oral exams, cleanings, fillings, extractions, denture fittings and more. Two mobile chairs can also be set up within the RV to accommodate more patients.

“There’s almost no difference between our van and a traditional dentist’s office,” said Dr. Nicole Harris, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Community Dentistry and one of two co-directors of the Geriatric Dental Program. “Everything done in a dental office, we can do in the RV.”

The new program also benefits dental students as a teaching tool. Third-year dental students get class instruction on senior oral care and fourth-year students take turns treating patients aboard Lifelong Smiles. Completion in the geriatric program is mandatory for all Case Western dental students.

“By providing students experience with older patients, we’re planting a seed in them to serve seniors during their careers,” said Dr. Suparna Mahalaha, the other co-director of the Geriatric Dental Program and also a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Community Dentistry.

As with similar programs, geared towards children or low-income families, the new Case Western program is also recruiting active and retired dentists to volunteer their services because eventually the mobile dentist office may be used to visit multiple senior facilities on a weekly basis.

“Often, underserved elderly populations cannot go out and get care on their own. So we’re building a model where we go to them,” Dr. Mahalaha said.

Dental Insurance Store is proud to offer senior plans priced no differently than dental coverage for younger people. To see plans available in your area, click here.

Sources: adanews,
Photo source:

Copyright 2016, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC

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