The College of Dentistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will officially open a pediatric dental clinic at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital on December 11. A “floss-cutting” ceremony is planned for 3 p.m. at the clinic located in Suite L900 to the right of the main entrance of the hospital at 848 Adams.
James C. Ragain, DDS, PhD, dean of the UTHSC College of Dentistry, said the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Pediatric Dental Clinic at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is a first for the university and its pediatric partner teaching hospital. “This new clinic is a wonderful opportunity for our pediatric dentistry faculty and residents, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, and the community,” he said. “This clinic will extend the outreach of the College of Dentistry to individuals who might not otherwise have access to pediatric dental care.”
The eight-chair clinic will be staffed by UTHSC pediatric dental faculty and senior residents. It will serve not only patients in the hospital, but also the patients cared for by Le Bonheur-based pediatric practices, as well as children from Midtown, Downtown, and surrounding areas. The clinic will provide a full range of pediatric dental services, including routine well visits and check-ups, cleanings, and restorative care for patients ranging in age from newborn to young adult.
“Dental caries (tooth decay) is the most prevalent disease of childhood,” said Larry Dormois, DDS, MS, chair and associate professor in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry and Community Oral Health in the College of Dentistry. “Pediatric dentistry is mainly primary care. Just as pediatricians emphasize early detection and minimization of risk factors, when dental care is started early, the risk of most of the dental problems throughout life is drastically reduced.” For that reason, the clinic will have a heavy emphasis on routine oral health care for infants, children, and adolescents, as well as on restoring teeth when necessary.
Dr. Dormois said the clinic reflects the missions of UTHSC and Le Bonheur to improve overall health and well-being for all Tennesseans. It will be the primary pediatric dental service for the hospital and its patients. It will be a provider for private dental insurance plans, as well as for TennCare and Arkansas and Mississippi Medicaid.
The clinic will also focus on community oral health care, educational outreach, and interdisciplinary research. It was initially funded by a grant from Delta Dental of Tennessee, the College of Dentistry Dean’s Reserve Fund, UTHSC alumni gifts, and Le Bonheur. Phil Wenk, DDS, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee and chair of the UTHSC Advisory Board, is expected to be present for the opening ceremony.
Craig Volk Vinall, DDS, MDS, director of Predoctoral Pediatric Dentistry and an assistant professor in the UTHSC College of Dentistry, will serve as director for the clinic. “This is exciting because it is the result of collaboration by the UTHSC and Methodist-Le Bonheur administration, alumni, and the medical staff at Le Bonheur,” he said.
Martha Wells, DMD, MS, director of Graduate Pediatric Dentistry and an associate professor in the College of Dentistry, said the collaboration with Le Bonheur, a nationally ranked children’s hospital, makes UTHSC’s dental residency program extremely competitive. “Not only does it give our faculty a chance to maintain their clinical skills and round out their experiences as an academic faculty member, but it also gives our training program one other additional experience that makes it just a top program,” she said. “Being able to practice in a more private-practice setting brings that last piece to make extremely well-rounded pediatric dentists.”
Dr. Dormois said the clinic is a win-win on all fronts. “It’s good for College of Dentistry, it’s good for Le Bonheur, and it’s also good for the community,”