Dallas College dental program provides care for community

Megan Earlston, Opinions Editor

Dallas College’s dental program offers free or discounted dental care for those who cannot afford it. 

The program, which began in 2016, offers radiographs, vital sign checks, a regular cleaning or periodontal cleaning, also known as a deep cleaning. The scope of dental work can take up to six appointments depending on the state of patient teeth. Teeth whitening is also offered for $75.

Sheila Vandenbush, dean of the dental hygiene program, has been a hygienist for 50 years. She has worked in eight states and in Italy. She has taught 16 of those years. She said, “This is a win-win situation.” The students need clinic hours and people cannot always afford dental care. 

In 2019, student hygienists saw 12,201 patients and completed $600,000 worth of free dental services.

Students in this program said they enjoy what they do for many reasons. Taylor Voges, a Dallas College El Centro campus student, said, “The flexibility of hygienists is great for a family.” 

To set up an appointment, a patient can call 214-860-2301. Appointments are scheduled only on days students have clinicals. A screening is done to see which level student someone should be seen by. For example, if someone has not visited a dentist in 10 years, the patient will be placed with a student who is more experienced. 

Dental care is a part of whole-body health. When someone has a tooth infection, it can affect their whole body. Routine dental care can sometimes uncover underlying health conditions. Most times people do not know they have high blood pressure, and the students and doctor are able to get the patient more help by referring them to another doctor. Sometimes, people have oral signs of diabetes but don’t know they have it.

This program model started at Sanford Brown College-Dallas, which closed in 2015. Dallas City Council Member Adam Medrano helped get the dental program open for Dallas College by introducing Vandenbush and El Centro President Jose Adames. 

Medrano said, “It is important to give back to the community.”  

Medrano, Vandenbush and Adames thought offering free dental care was a wonderful way to assist the community. It provides students with patients to work on so they can get their degree. 

COVID-19 has affected the program. All the students take classes online and only have in-person clinics. The dental office is using high-level infection control. The students and doctor dress and sanitize as if everyone who comes in has COVID-19. They gown up from head to toe with gloves, face masks and shields.