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UTHSC College of Dentistry to Host “Floss Cutting,” Grand Opening of New $45 Million Delta Dental of Tennessee Building

The UTHSC College of Dentistry will host a “floss cutting” of the new $45 million Delta Dental of Tennessee Building on April 14. The new building adjoins the existing Dunn Dental Building, making up the Delta Dental of Tennessee Oral Health Complex.

The College of Dentistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will host a “floss cutting” and grand opening of the new $45 million Delta Dental of Tennessee Building on the Memphis campus at 1 p.m., Friday, April 14.

The 68,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building increases space for training Tennessee’s dental workforce and expands facilities to treat patients from the Mid-South. The building opens as the UTHSC College of Dentistry is undertaking a $53 million project, as a part of the state’s five-year, $94 million Healthy Smiles Initiative, to increase access to dentists and dental care across Tennessee.

The building at 875 Union Avenue adjoins the existing Dunn Dental Building. Together they make up the Delta Dental of Tennessee Oral Health Complex.

Dr. Phil Wenk

The name of the new building and complex honors the outstanding support from Delta Dental of Tennessee and its Chief Executive Officer Philip Wenk, DDS. Dr. Wenk is a 1973 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the immediate past chair of the UT Foundation Board of Directors; the chair of the UTHSC Advisory Board; and a 1977 graduate of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Dentistry.

Delta Dental of Tennessee provided $6.3 million for construction costs and $1.4 million for equipment for the building. Generous support from the state and other donations ensured that the state-of-the-art building is a reality.

“This building is the embodiment of the generous philanthropy of our supporters at Delta Dental of Tennessee and its leader, Phil Wenk, one of our most dedicated alumni members and just a tremendous friend of the college and our university,” said Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD. “We are grateful also for the support from the state and other donors who have funded this building, which is so vital to the health of all Tennesseans.”

The Delta Dental of Tennessee Building houses a clinic for patients with special needs; an expanded faculty practice for treating patients, including the uninsured and underinsured; and dental technique labs for first- and second-year students to hone their skills. The UTHSC College of Dentistry, the third oldest public college of dentistry in the country, trains 75% of Tennessee’s dentists.

Dean James Ragain

“We’ve been known for many, many years for training excellent dentists, dental hygienists, and specialists,” said James Ragain, DDS, PhD, MS, FICD, FACD, dean of the UTHSC College of Dentistry. “With our new state-of-the-art building that has all the latest teaching aids and dental equipment, we are better positioned to attract the most talented students, faculty, and leadership that we can.”

Classes will start in the Delta Dental of Tennessee Building for the fall semester, which begins in July. Dean Ragain said the additional space, once fully operational, will allow the college to reach its eventual goal to expand its class size to 130 students over the next five years to meet the anticipated demand for dentists in Tennessee and the surrounding region, particularly in underserved rural areas. This goal is one key facet of the Healthy Smiles Initiative, which also includes expansion of dental student rotations at UTHSC-sponsored clinics in areas of greatest need across the state, as well as new dental residency training sites in Kingsport, Knoxville, and Jackson.

Construction on the new building began in early 2021. Throughout the process, the college has ensured that its clinics in the Dunn Building have remained open and patient care has continued unchanged. The faculty practice had 58,000 patient encounters in 2022, Dean Ragain said.

“The addition of our second building on campus, creating the Delta Dental of Tennessee Oral Health Complex, will facilitate our class size increases, which will ultimately increase the dental workforce in Tennessee and improve access to dental care and the oral health of our citizens,” Dean Ragain said.

The opening celebration will be held on the front steps of the Delta Dental of Tennessee Building.

“This will be a great day for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Delta Dental, and ultimately countless Tennesseans across the state who will benefit from the high-quality care that dentists trained in this new building will provide,” said Dr. Wenk. “It is also a proud moment for me personally, as a College of Dentistry graduate and longtime advocate for dental education and increasing the number of dentists practicing in Tennessee. Delta Dental’s commitment to investing in the health of all Tennesseans is truly a company-wide mission, and this new building would not have been possible without the support of our board of directors, including our chair, Dr. Paul Bacon, a fellow UT graduate.”

Delta Dental of Tennessee Building at a Glance

  • 68,000 square feet 
  • 4 floors 
  • $45 Million (cost) 
  • Special Needs Clinic (6 dental treatment rooms on the ground floor)
  • Expanded and modernized University Dental Practice (10 dental treatment rooms with updated radiographic equipment) 
  • 2 large seminar rooms
  • 134 manikin stations in preclinical dental techniques laboratories for dental and dental hygiene programs 
  • Innovation lab (Space for manufacturers to showcase new products)
  • 12 faculty offices 
  • Locker spaces for students 
  • 132 seats for students in large lecture auditorium 
  • Dean’s Suite (top floor, moving from Dunn Dental Building, freeing space for student organization activities, study areas, and additional student gathering areas) 
  • Constructed by the Turner Construction Company

Visit this link to read more about Dr. Phil Wenk, chief executive officer of Delta Dental of Tennessee, and his service: https://news.uthsc.edu/phil-wenk-gives-back-to-his-alma-mater-and-the-people-of-tennessee/