Students provide dental care

James Avery has called Sunrise Country Manor, a nursing home in Milford, Neb., home for 10 years.

For the past five, he has relied upon the weekly visits of dental hygiene students from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry for much-needed oral health care.

Darlene Carritt, R.D.H., an instructor of dental hygiene at the UNMC College of Dentistry and four upper level dental hygiene students spend four hours every Wednesday providing free cleanings, fluoride varnishes and oral health exams to residents.

The care is a “godsend for the whole facility,” Avery said.

Wheelchair bound due to cerebral palsy, Avery said the students are “top-notch” and have been instrumental in identifying emerging cavities and preventing new ones.

Sunrise is among three nursing homes Carritt and her students visit during the school year. The others include: Ridgewood Nursing Home in Seward, Neb., and The Arbors Assisted Living Facility in Lincoln.

The visits are a win-win for residents, who need the care but have little to no access to a dentist, and for the students who get experience.

Patients in these facilities often face oral health challenges, Carritt said, due to medications that cause dry mouth and exponentially increase the rates of tooth decay.

“Our goal is to identify any problems, and help them maintain the health of the teeth they have, which is so important to their overall health,” she said.

Speaking, chewing and even oral inflammation that can impact heart health are all related to healthy teeth and gums, Carritt said.

“Without Darlene and her crew there wouldn’t be much dental care going on here,” Avery said.