New Dental Hygiene Clinic Already Benefits Local Community

By Ben Boulden

On March 5, dental hygiene students, supervised by faculty, offered cleaning to residents of Our House, and on March 20, they applied dental sealants to the teeth of 56 children ages 5 to 17 at a special free sealant clinic.

Claire Tucker, right, talks to a dental hygiene student at the sealant clinic.

Claire Tucker, right, talks to a dental hygiene student at the sealant clinic.

The new Dental Hygiene Clinic now has 20 separate treatment rooms and five X-ray rooms. With individualized treatment rooms, every patient has their own room to eliminate the spread of aerosols to other patients and provide enhanced patient privacy. Previously, the clinic had open floor plan in its former location in the Shorey Building on the main campus. Safety restrictions like social distancing put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic made using it more difficult.

“Because we have separate treatment rooms, it’s a better option for patient safety,” said Claire Tucker, Ed.D., RDH, chair of the Department of Dental Hygiene in the College of Health Professions. “The access to getting here at Freeway and parking is easier for the public than where we were on the main campus.”

“This is just awesome compared to what we did have,” student Lynlee Broadway said March 22. “This is the sort of event that is going to advertise this new space. We’ve had a lot of patients schedule cleanings for later before they left today.”

In addition to Broadway, the other dental hygiene senior students who organized the sealant clinic were Jason Harper, Kaitlyn Baldwin, Lindsey Martin and Jasmine DeBose.

The dental hygiene program requires students to complete a community project and log several hours of community service for graduation. Typically, that involves dental hygiene education and presentations in a school or church, but this group of seniors wanted to do something more.

Tucker said it was the first sealant clinic the department and its students had done in many years.

In applying sealants, the children need to have a dental exam as well as X-ray imaging. Typically, the first molars are sealed to prevent future cavities. Students dry a tooth then place acid etching on it. Next, it is rinsed and dried again, before the student places the sealant on the tooth and cures it with ultra-violet (UV) light. Finally, the hygienist checks the bite to make sure the sealant isn’t too high or thick, Tucker said.

Delta Dental Foundation of Arkansas awarded the clinic a grant of $1,000 to cover the cost of some of the expenses of the sealant clinic.

Harper said the process often costs as much as $35 a tooth, so the savings to the families in many cases was significant.

Richard Robinson, left, looks over the sign-up sheets for the March 5 Our House dental hygiene outreach clinic.

Richard Robinson, left, looks over the sign-up sheets for the March 5 Our House dental hygiene outreach clinic.

“I’m really proud of the students for stepping up and reaching out to the community,” Tucker said. “As an educator, it makes you proud seeing them want to serve the community and not just doing it for their hours or check off a box. They poured their hearts into it.”

That’s in part what motivated Richard Robinson, a dental hygiene student, to organize an outreach clinic earlier in March for some of the residents of Our House. Our House provides a pathway out of homelessness for families in central Arkansas. Its housing program includes an 80-bed dormitory and a transitional residence, and Our House also offers career guidance, children’s programs and homelessness prevention.

“Going to the dentist sometimes is the last thing on many people’s mind when they are barely getting by,” Robinson said. “Our House does a great job with its many programs helping people to get on their feet. I thought it would be a great chance to provide oral hygiene to people who really need it.”

He said the only way students like him can gain hands-on experience is working with different patients and different case types. Doing that better prepares them to work as professional dental hygienists after they finish their education.

The students praised all the state-of-the-art equipment UAMS installed in the new space.

“This one is the best hygiene clinics in the country,” Robinson said. “Everything we need is there in the treatment room. It’s like upgrading from a 1994 Camry that works well enough to a 2021 Tesla.”