Continuing its mission to expand its clinical reach across the state, the College of Dentistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has established a dental clinic in Chattanooga to care for the working poor.
The clinic, which opened September 12, is located in the Dodson Avenue Neighborhood Health Center. It is the third in a series of clinics opened by the college recently, specifically to address the needs of the underserved. Last year, the college opened the doors on two clinics at either end of the state – Union City in western Tennessee and Bristol at the far eastern edge of the state.
A similar clinic has been operating in Jackson, Tennessee, for about four years, one is planned for Nashville in conjunction with Saint Thomas Health opening next summer, and another is slated for Knoxville in 2018.
“We will have clinics basically across the state,” said Tim Hottel, DDS, MS, MBA, professor and dean of the College of Dentistry at UTHSC.
The clinic in Chattanooga is staffed by two full-time dentists, who are now adjunct faculty in the College of Dentistry. They will supervise the fourth-year dental students, who will travel in pairs to Chattanooga for two-week rotations.
Delta Dental donated all the funds for the new chairs and X-ray equipment to support the student rotation.
“Our vision at Delta Dental of Tennessee is to ensure healthy smiles for all Tennesseans, including those who are not able to afford dental insurance, much less a trip to the dentist,” said Phil Wenk, DDS, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee and an alumus of the College of Dentistry. “This new clinic in Chattanooga gives us the opportunity to get one step closer to achieving that vision, while also giving UT dental students an opportunity to better learn the practice of their profession and enabling them to create even more beautiful, healthy smiles for Tennesseans.”
Dental student Michael Fesmire, who graduates in May, said the rotation has been a great learning experience. “We’ve gotten to see a lot of patients,” he said. The students have done extractions, some cleanings and had the chance to treat several emergency patients. “I feel like it’s a really good transition between the school academic setting and when we graduate and have our own practice.”
Dr. Hottel said the college has several goals in expanding its reach with the clinics. “The value for students is they get the joy of treating populations they might not see in Memphis,” he said. Also, he hopes the work inspires the students to spend some time in their practices in the future treating those who might not have the finances to afford dental care.