Dental programs with bite

A $3.25 million grant has yielded crowning achievements in dental programs at PCC’s West Campus

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Pima Community College’s West Campus received a Title V grant four years ago, worth $3.25 million over five years, to renovate its dental programs.

As of September, construction has been completed.

The Dental Studies Center for Excellence has new state-of-the-art equipment, updated and redesigned facilities and expanded training.

Dawn Stevens, dental clinic manager, says that the clinic has a fresh feel to it.

“I love the fact that, prior to these changes, some patients felt like they were entering a lab,” Stevens said. “Now they know they’re entering a clinic, and it feels welcoming. Patients who have been here with us for years came in saying ‘Wow.’ They were happy to see the improvements; they love it.”

The improvements have aided in several ways:

• Enrollment capacity of dental studies programs has increased by

30 percent

• Helped design teaching facilities with new technology

• Added 10 more dental chairs for a total of 23

• Twelve pilot dental studies courses with redesigned curricula

• Provided faculty training for new technology

• Created a new degree pathway from dental assisting certificate to dental hygiene associate degree

Members of the public, even if they are uninsured, may go to the clinic for basic treatments at a low cost and be serviced by dental hygiene students as a part of the students’ education. These students are supervised by licensed dental hygienists and licensed dentists.

The clinic’s main goals are to provide their dental students the best possible education and to provide our community with basic dental care at more affordable, flat rates.

Carolyn Sotelo, dental hygiene and dental assistant instructor, said that they also are strengthening each individual dental program by bringing the students together and teaching them aspects of different dental careers.

“I think intertwining assisting with hygiene, the students all benefit,” Sotelo said. “There’s not that separation that’s been there. They go out into the field knowing what each type of dental worker does, so educating them together is excellent.”

Cathryn Lovio, second-year dental hygiene student, thinks integrating the programs is helping her and other students.

“It’s a great opportunity to collaborate,” Lovio said. “To unify our learning and help each other out with other aspects of learning.”

Max Atwell, dental laboratory technology instructor, said he wishes more people knew what his program offers because there is a lot of employment opportunity in it.

“We’re the professionals behind the professionals,” Atwell said. “We make things like dentures, crowns, bridges, dental ceramics and orthodontic implants. We got a lot of new stuff this year.”

Emy Mooly, a second-year DLT student of Atwell, said she studied at the clinic before it was renovated and is very happy about the new technology and work stations.

“It’s awesome,” Mooly said. “It’s really great we have our own stations. I think the biggest improvement is the new lab, the sections for acrylic grounding and the new hand pieces.”

Reed Curtis, first-year dental hygiene student, only has worked in the renovated clinic.

“It’s a pretty awesome clinic,” Curtis said. “Everything is pretty state of the art, modern. I like that they teach us different ways to do things, like how to read both traditional X-rays and digital, so when we go out in the real world you know both.”

Pima is currently developing on-site continuing education courses for dental professionals in Southern Arizona and is becoming a Western Regional Examining Board host site for dental hygiene in 2018.

Pima also is working toward an integrative clinical teaching model with the addition of an advanced education in general dentistry residency program, a postdoctoral training program for dentists.

The Pima dental clinic says that there is an unmet need for dental care for low-income adults and children in Tucson, which the Advanced Education in General Dentistry program will meet by offering high-quality dental care at a low cost.

Karen Tam, PCC Title V grant project director, thinks the improvements are wonderful and they would like to have more community members come in for their low-cost dental care.

“We always look for patients, with or without insurance,” Tam said. “It does require additional time because the students are still learning. Our patients and students have such wonderful and positive things to say about this clinic.”

Stevens agreed.

“Patients and employees were brought to tears over the improvements and how much the community can benefit through them,” Stevens said.


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