College of Dentistry returning to MMI

by Erin Wirth
March 10, 2021

Image with caption: Jill Wallen, assistant dean of extramural activities and outreach and chair of the department of growth and development at the UNMC College of Dentistry

Jill Wallen, assistant dean of extramural activities and outreach and chair of the department of growth and development at the UNMC College of Dentistry

Oral health is an essential part of overall health and well-being, and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can find it particularly challenging to find an oral health care provider that can meet their needs.

That's why the UNMC College of Dentistry is delighted to be joining MMI's multidisciplinary team to provide dental care to individuals of all ages and abilities at the new Munroe-Meyer Institute Caring For Champions Dental Clinic, opening this summer. The Caring For Champions Program, endorsed by Special Olympics, will provide individuals access to dental, vision and weight management care as part of the comprehensive patient experience.

The UNMC College of Dentistry has a strong history of collaboration with MMI -- the college's postgraduate residency in pediatric dentistry was located in the MMI building until 2011. In the new Caring for Champions Dental Clinic, we will offer a highly personalized dental experience delivered in an innovative new clinical environment. We will be collaborating with other MMI health care providers, such as the pediatric feeding disorders program, to transform patients' lives by helping them achieve overall health and well-being.

A key component of our innovative patient experience approach will be working with our patients and their families and caregivers to develop lifelong personalized care and transition plans, with the goal of preserving patients' independence. Jennifer Kallio, DDS, an assistant professor in the adult restorative department at the UNMC College of Dentistry, is leading efforts to create this specialized patient experience.

Our patients' care plans may involve altering the clinical environment for their unique needs and preferences. The clinic has been specifically designed to provide a low sensory environment -- the dental operatories can be darkened and lighting colors altered, anxiety-producing dental equipment can be concealed in cabinetry until needed, and the physical environment can easily be adapted for patients in wheelchairs.

These intricately crafted patient experiences were inspired by an interprofessional group of faculty, staff and students from MMI, UNMC, Nebraska Medicine, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Clarkson College, who took part in a UNMC-sponsored Design Thinking Boot Camp. The group met with caregivers of children with disabilities and complex health needs to understand their experiences, beliefs and values related to dental care and used this information to help identify the components of the best possible patient experience.

Not only will patients benefit from this collaboration, our students and residents will directly participate in clinical care experiences, seeing firsthand how interprofessional health care works and learning firsthand how to provide excellent patient care to individuals of all ages and abilities.

This collaboration will strengthen the longstanding relationship between the UNMC College of Dentistry and MMI and largely was made possible by Janet M. Guthmiller, DDS, PhD, dean of the UNMC College of Dentistry, and Karoly Mirnics, MD, PhD, director of the Munroe Meyer Institute. The result will be a patient experience unlike any other in the nation, providing people of all ages and abilities with a dental home where they can count on receiving compassionate and comprehensive care.