Dentistry heads west for Panhandle Dental Day

by Sydnie Hochstein, UNMC College of Dentistry | June 19, 2018

Image with caption: From left: Stanton Harn, Ph.D., professor emeritus; Charles

From left: Stanton Harn, Ph.D., professor emeritus; Charles "Fritz" Craft, D.D.S., DHHS dental health director and volunteer faculty member; Jillian Wallen, B.D.S., chair of the department of growth and development; Tyler Johnson, D.D.S., pediatric dental resident; Claire Koukol, D.D.S., pediatric dental resident; Christopher Johnson, D.D.S., pediatric dental resident; Meenakshi Vishwanath, B.D.S., assistant professor; Katelyn Olenich, D.D.S., pediatric dental resident; Brian Lange, Ph.D., professor; Eric Phan, D.D.S., pediatric dental resident; and Nic Fargo, computer/multimedia technician.

More than 70 UNMC College of Dentistry students, residents, faculty and staff traveled to western Nebraska for the 14th consecutive Panhandle Dental Day event in June.

They teamed with organizers Janelle Visser of the Panhandle Public Health District and Ashlei Tausan, a nurse for Gordon-Rushville Public Schools, to treat children at several sites, including Gordon Memorial Hospital, Horizon West Dental in Alliance, Summit Dental Group in Sidney and LifeSmiles of Sidney.

Volunteers provided an estimated $86,000 in dental services to nearly 200 children ranging in age from 3 to 21. All were pre-screened for the event and received dental care including pulpectomies, extractions, cleanings, sealants and fillings, as well as oral hygiene education.

For many children in the area, the annual event has become their dental home, said David Brown, Ph.D., professor of oral biology and coordinator of community and dental public health at the College of Dentistry.

"We have seen a fairly recent trend of these children needing fewer extractions and restorations, so therefore our services are more preventive," he said. "It seems that we are making an impact and doing our job of improving the health of the community."

For the student volunteers, Panhandle Dental Day is often one of the first experiences they have with rural public health. It provides them an opportunity to practice dentistry in a different location with a different kind of patient.

"It's less about the individual treatment and more about educating the community about the benefits of oral health," Dr. Brown said.

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Sandy Williamson
June 20, 2018 at 8:58 AM

The impact of community outreach to vulnerable populations should not be underestimated. The oral health education that residents and students provide to these children is even more valuable than the services provided. Kudos to a job well done!