Smile on a budget
Smile on a budget
Smile on a budget
Ralph Baughman was a working father with a growing family when he first needed dental care that could fit into a tight budget.
That’s when he found the student clinics at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics.
About 80 percent of Iowa dentists are alumni, delivering an estimated $800 million in dental care to Iowans.
An estimated 98 percent of Iowans are within a 30-minute drive of a practicing alumnus.
The college is one of only two dental schools in the U.S. that offer programs in all dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. Every discipline in the college has at least one national leader.
There are 103 full-time faculty members, about 320 pre-doctoral students, and 90 postdoctoral students at the college. More than 130 adjunct faculty assist at the college.
The college had 27 outreach programs that served 95 counties in fiscal 2015, focusing on children, special needs patients, and seniors.
The college received 838 applications for 80 slots for the 2015 entering class.
The college also offers dental treatment by faculty general dentists and dental specialists at fees comparable to those found in private practice in the community.
More than 50 years later, Baughman, now 91, continues to be a loyal patient, most recently to receive partial dentures. Over the years, most of his 11 children frequented the student clinics; three even received braces there. Though time in the chair is longer with student dentists, Baughman has never been disappointed with the results—or the price.
“The students were doing just as good a job as the regular dentists,” he says. “It struck me as the thing to keep on doing to get the work done as economically as I could.”
Baughman isn’t alone.
During fiscal year 2014–15, more than 40,600 patients from across the state racked up 162,000 visits with the UI College of Dentistry. In fact, every county in the state had at least one patient. Unsurprisingly, Johnson County—home to the University of Iowa—had the most with 14,156 patients who made 57,002 dental visits.
David Johnsen, dean of the College of Dentistry, says the reason for popularity of the student clinics is clear: They provide quality dental treatment for adults and children at prices that are about one-third to one-half the cost of a those of a private dental practice. Treatment is provided by dental students under the supervision of faculty who are general dentists and dental specialists.
“Patients are the reason we are here,” Johnsen says. “A highly skilled team that cares about patients is the foundation. The public is demanding good oral health as part of their total health.”
Dental costs can add up for someone like Baughman, who in addition to regular teeth cleanings has had fillings, root canals, caps, and his wisdom teeth removed. Most recently, he received new partial dentures.
But service is a two-way street at the College of Dentistry. Students need to know how to perform a wide range of dental services, and patients like Baughman provide them with the opportunity to perfect their skills before they graduate.
For the more than 80 future dentists who graduated in 2015, nearly 20,000 patients helped them hone their skills over their four years, says Ann Synan, patient relations specialist at the UI College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics.
“Ralph is the type of patient we need because he is very understanding,” she says. “The students need extra time since they are learning, and faculty need to check their work. So, something that might take one hour in private practice takes a student two or three hours, and Ralph understands that.”
Before patients are paired with students, they receive a brief oral evaluation by a faculty dentist to determine if the treatment is appropriate for the student clinics. Radiography is charged separately, but the examination fee is only $10.
If approved, patients receive a comprehensive tooth-by-tooth examination, which allows the dental team to prioritize the patient’s needs and estimate the cost and time required for treatment. That exam is $45.
Baughman now receives regular six-month cleanings with a dental hygienist in the family dental clinic but returns to the student clinic if they spot a problem.
That’s how Baughman was paired with fourth-year dental student Kaitlin Bowman for his partial dentures. Since 1986, when the dental college began keeping electronic records, 35 dental students have treated Baughman.
“I’ve never had a bad experience,” he says.