UAMS Oral Health Clinic on Display at Open House

By Nathan Tidwell

The Oral Health Clinic staff handed out oral hygiene supplies and spoke with the many guests who came through.

Stephanie Gardner

UAMS provost, chief academic officer and chief strategy officer Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., chats with staff.Image by Nathan Tidwell

“The UAMS Oral Health Clinic is a tremendous asset not only to our patients and staff but also to the community,” said Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., UAMS provost, chief academic officer and chief strategy officer. “It’s an important aspect of our mission.”

The clinic celebrated its 10th anniversary in June 2023. An expansion added 3,490 square feet to bring the clinic’s total square footage to 12,800. The clinic went from 11 to 15 dental hygiene operatories, which are able to support three full-time hygienists.

Ashley McMillan, DDS, director of the General Practice Residency program, touted another expansion.

“Our accrediting body has approved our increase in enrollment, and we are now accredited for eight residents,” McMillan said. “We have accepted seven residents for 2024-25 up from the current five, with the plan in subsequent years to increase to the full eight.”

Visitors, which included many UAMS employees, were able to walk around the clinic as clinic staff answered questions about operations.

McMillan, who was one of the first two residents to complete the dental residency program in 2015, also discussed the clinic’s growth.

“I’ve been here for 10 years. Prior to that, no one knew where to send patients who had more advanced needs outside of regular dentistry. We’ve done a lot more of what I would call medical dentistry, and we’ve brought that to campus and to the community.”

“We’ve trained more than 30 residents who have gone into the community to provide services,” added Sara Hardin, DDS, the residency program’s assistant director.

Since the clinic opened in January 2013, staff have performed more than 88,000 dental treatments to about 23,000 patients.

One of the clinic’s main tasks is treating patients who are at UAMS for other medical issues.

Oral Health Clinic staff.

Enthusiastic staff are ready to show off the Oral Health Clinic.Image by Nathan Tidwell

“We clear a lot of patients for things like kidney, liver or stem cell transplants. A lot these procedures require patients to be placed on immune suppression medication,” said Hardin. “They have to be cleared from a dental perspective to ensure they have nothing in their mouth that can cause an infection while their immunity is suppressed.

UAMS’ clinic is unlike other dental clinics.

“We have private practice dentists who come here and supervise residents. They say this is a totally different world in terms of the patient base and the type of procedures we do,” McMillan said. “We’re doing dentistry, but we’re doing it in a setting where the patient is much more fragile than they would be in the community.”

McMillan also noted the benefit of the clinic’s availability to UAMS staff.

“It’s so convenient for employees to not have to leave campus to get services.”

McMillan, Hardin and the clinic staff realize that making UAMS’ patients as comfortable as possible is important.

“So many patients like coming to us because they know we’re going to work with their provider, and there’s communication where they feel their entire health is being addressed by one team,” said McMillan.

Oral Health Clinic

The Oral Health Clinic has treated nearly 23,000 patients since opening in 2013.Image by Nathan Tidwell