The University of Maryland Dental School Clinic, Perryville now provides oral health care to an underserved population in and around Cecil County, Md., while training the next generation of dentists and dental hygienists for service in rural settings.
If that weren't enough to celebrate, at an unveiling of a wall of plaques honoring donors' contributions, some 80 guests said they were very pleased, and some surprised, that the small rural dental clinic is outfitted with the most advanced dental equipment available in the world.
Several years ago, the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore and Union Hospital in Elkton, with encouragement from local health officials and the state legislature, formed a partnership to offer dental services to rural northeastern Maryland at minimum cost. The partnership was motivated by a desperate need for oral health care in the region. A study revealed that about 35 percent of all elementary school children in Cecil County had never been to a dentist, and many low-income adult and elderly residents did not have access to emergency dental care.
The partners chose Perryville, a small town about 50 miles north of the Dental School in Baltimore, as the clinic location. Nearly 3,500 patients have been treated since it began operations late last year.
The clinic in Perryville is a new model for rural clinics in underserved areas across the country, said Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent, dean of the School. "We decided why not do something completely different, and this is now both a model and a place where our students can treat patients with the best equipment," said Stohler, pictured above (left) in the clinic's pediatrics room with Jay A. Perman, MD, president of the University of Maryland campus in Baltimore.
Two of the largest contributors to the concept were dental equipment manufacturers Planmeca of Finland and Bien-Air of Switzerland. The value of Planmeca's donations, which included 22 automated Sovereign dental chairs, totaled $2.4 million. Bien-Air's donations, worth $500,000, include the latest models of silent dental drills and other hand-held tools. The cutting-edge technology, combined with a live telemedicine links with the Dental School in Baltimore, allows the School to limit the cost of its education by keeping a low faculty-to-student radio, said Stohler.
"We wanted to be involved because it is very important to help out people who can't afford decent dentistry," said Vincent Mosimann, Bien-Air general manager. "It wasn't long ago when there was nothing here and suddenly we have this fantastic facility. I look at the final product, this clinic, and I am amazed--fantastic looking and very functional."
Arthur Mateen, Bien-Air's branch manager, said, "I have been to so many dental schools and there has been nothing like this that I've seen. This is not the kind of facility you expect .. you'd expect, used equipment, maybe on the blink."
Perman said that when he was told of the lack of dental care in the region, "As a pediatrician, this concerned me very much. I can't begin to emphasize enough the importance of oral health for children. To have our Dental School people, united with the Cecil College, Union Hospital, Cecil County Public Schools, and other partner organizations to offer those services without expense to them, we have a lot to celebrate today. "
State Delegate David Rudolph, MEd, EdD, from Cecil County, said, "I am so proud of this accomplishment because kids, when they come to school with poor oral health, they are doomed to failure."
Other corporate donors include Johnson & Johnson Professional Affairs and Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Individual donors are Dental School alumni Harold Frank, DDS, class of 1979; Judith Gaston, RN, MS; Michael King, DDS; Charlene Moore; and Eunice Nelson.
More than two dozen community organizations also support the clinic.