October 22, 2004

Dental clinic changes name, expands hours

by Beth M. Hartke

CARBONDALE, Ill -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s dental clinic has a new name and expanded hours.

The SIUC Community Dental Center, part of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, provides comprehensive oral health care primarily to Medicaid recipients.

Officials expect the name change to reinforce the dental center’s identity with the local community and to clear up any confusion created by the former name, Heartland Dental Clinic. The clinic was mistaken as an affiliate of several organizations, such as Heartland Dental in Effingham, the Heartland Clinic in Paducah and Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion.

The clinic now sees patients 12 hours per week, up from the previous four hours. The increase in hours is a direct result of the increase in the number of patients the clinic serves.

"We are doing whatever we can to put a dent in the number of patients that we can see. There is such a tremendous need," Sandra J. Maurizio, faculty supervisor of the clinic, said.

In fact the clinic added a third dentist in June to help serve the 40 to 50 patients the clinic sees each week.

The primary clients of the SIUC Community Dental Center are Medicaid recipients in Southern Illinois, but there are also limited funds available to serve low income or uninsured residents. Children receive preventative and restorative care, including cleanings, fluoride, sealants, restorations, crowns and extractions. Adults receive restorative care and prosthetics, including full dentures and crowns. The clinic will refer patients for extensive dental services when necessary.

In addition to providing a service to the community, the dental center provides a learning opportunity for students. Patients receive care from fourth-year dental hygiene students, dental technology students, faculty dentists and volunteer dentists from the region.

"Working in the clinic gives us a realistic view," said Julia L. Heuring, a fourth-year dental hygiene student.

"It's a great opportunity for students because they get to see what private practice is all about," noted Danna P. Cotner, faculty dentist, who has been working at the clinic since it opened.

Dental technology students also gain experience through fabricating dentures and crowns for patients.

"Service learning gives our dental technology students the ability to develop their skills for the real world. Not only are our students fortunate to gain the experience of providing provisional partial dentures and mouth protectors for children and crowns and dentures for adults, but also the patients are fortunate to get prosthetic services. These services would be scarcely available for Medicaid patients without this clinic and our dental technology program," said John R. Winings, program director and associate professor in the dental technology program.

The dental center opened in 2000. SIUC's Public Policy Institute helped the dental hygiene and dental technology programs secure the original grant of $40,000 from the Illinois Lieutenant Governor's Rural Affairs Council. Subsequently, the Illinois Department of Public Health contributed a $17,500 grant for new chairs and lights, and the Carbondale Rotary Breakfast Club provided funding for permanent and portable signs, a TV-VCR for the reception area and pamphlets for the clinic. The clinic opened its doors on Sept. 11, 2000. Currently, the clinic's funding comes from Medicaid reimbursements.

The Rotary Club also provides two volunteers as receptionists for the clinic, which it has done since the clinic opened.

"I got started working for the clinic because I believe it is important for every community member to have at least one area where they give back to the community. I also believe that the clinic is a worthwhile service, in that it provides dental services to people without the opportunity, particularly children," said Connie H. Steudel, volunteer receptionist and member of The Rotary Club.

Steudel has been working at the clinic every Monday night since it opened in 2000.

Providing service learning opportunities and outreach activities is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

During the fall and spring semesters, the clinic is open on Monday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon. During the summer, the clinic is open three days a week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The clinic is on the south side of the Applied Sciences and Arts building. For more information about the SIUC Community Dental Center, call 618/453-2353.