The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Dentistry is fulfilling its commitment to serve the needs of the underserved in our communities. New clinics have opened across the state — in Jackson, Union City, Bristol and recently, Chattanooga – with a new dental sleep medicine clinic slated to open in the spring.
The college, founded in 1878, is the oldest college of dentistry in the South, and the third oldest public college of dentistry in the United States. It offers a four-year dental program, a two-year dental hygiene program, and postgraduate dental education programs. Approximately 75 percent of practicing dentists in Tennessee are alumni of the UTHSC College of Dentistry.
“What we are looking forward to is addressing things that are almost an epidemic in the Memphis area,” said Timothy L. Hottel, DDS, MS, MBA, dean of the College of Dentistry. Sleep apnea and special needs are two areas where the dental school can make a difference for the population in the Memphis area, Dr. Hottel said.
The new dental sleep medicine clinic will allow patients to receive sleep apnea treatment using oral appliances instead of traditional sleep appliances. This can be especially beneficial to children since traditional treatment using sleep appliances may restrict their entire mid-face growth due to the pressure used, causing cranial facial deformities. Patients will be referred from sleep studies at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Methodist Hospital and other centers. The College of Dentistry has already had success in treatment using oral appliances, changing sleep study results from 200-300 awakenings in patients to a minimal number per hour.
The College of Dentistry Dunn Dental Building was also recently completely renovated. The entire interior of the current building now features the newest technology available in dental training. The College also has plans to open a new 60,000-square-foot building next to Dunn Dental, which is fully funded through $39 million from the state and $6.3 million from Delta Dental of Tennessee.
The College of Dentistry’s expansion has allowed its 400 predoctoral students to train in clinics throughout the state, exposing them to a diverse population of patients from different socioeconomic backgrounds. In the past year alone the college has participated in 47 local community outreach events including the MidSouth Mission of Mercy, the Back to School Family Affair, and Give Kids a Smile Day.
“Our community outreach is extremely important,” said Dr. Hottel. “We are here to benefit the surrounding community, and the more that we can do for our surrounding community, the better asset we are to the city of Memphis.”