Need dental care? Try this program for seniors at Sinclair Community College

Miami Valley residents have a good reason to smile. They can protect their best grins with regular teeth cleaning at Sinclair Community College. And the cost is less than lunch—even cheaper if you’re a senior citizen.

The Midmark Dental Health Clinic has been in operation since the late 1970′s, and now the clinic is in the Ned J. Sifferlen Health Sciences Center, which opened in 2017. New dental chairs, instruments and digital imaging equipment were provided by Midmark, the global supplier of healthcare equipment headquartered in Versailles.

It only takes a phone call to register, says Clinic Director Dr. Bonita Kipling, Chair and Professor of Dental Health Services at Sinclair. Dr. Kipling, formerly a private practice dentist, adds the cost is only $10—$5 if you are 62+.

Services include oral exam, head/mouth cancer screening, cleaning (and/or deep cleaning of gum pockets that may occur around teeth), any needed x-rays, fluoride treatment and more, according to Cindy Leverich, Clinic Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Dental Hygiene.

Denture wearers can count on having their dentures or partials cleaned, and full mouth, head/neck exams and x-rays are provided, Leverich notes. And while extras like sealants and home bleaching trays are available to clinic patients for an added, discounted price, dental needs such as fillings and crowns must be referred out to your dentist.

No dentist? The clinic team keeps a list of dentists for referrals. With patient permission, the patient’s records can be requested by their dentist.

“We also get a lot of referrals from dentists, especially for patients that need deep cleaning,” says Dr. Kipling. “We work with the patient, and they go back to their dentist.”

Only second-year hygiene students work with patients. These students must complete the rigorous first-year training, notes Dr. Kipling, including coursework and instruction on how to use the cleaning instruments. “They can’t move on until they are competent on each instrument.” They then spend hours practicing on human mouth models and on each other before seeing patients.

“And they learn presentation skills, how to communicate with patients from all cultures and age groups,” adds Leverich.

Experienced dentists and licensed dental hygienists, some still in practice, serve as clinic faculty and monitor the students as they work. The dentist reviews the patient’s initial exam and recommends the next steps, e.g., deep cleaning is needed. Then, after each step of the cleaning process, the student’s work is checked by both the dental hygienist and the dentist.

That’s why patients must agree to attend three to four sessions. Each session is three hours. Students move more slowly, Leverich explains, adding they also take more time with the patients answering questions and explaining what they are doing.

“We’re so grateful for the patients,” says Dr. Kipling. “It’s an education environment. It’s important for the students to get that experience” before graduating from the two-year program.

She adds that the student’s deliberate movements and willingness to answer questions work well with people who have “dental anxiety.” For those with extra sensitive teeth, numbing agents are available. Staff dentists monitor injections directly with the student and patient.

“It’s up to the patient,” adds Leverich. “We never force treatment. And we have some gels that can work as well.”

Patients who need assistance transferring from wheelchairs or walkers are welcome, as students have had training with Sinclair Physical Therapy and Occupation Therapy departments, and transfer boards are available. The clinic also sees dementia patients who do not require sedation.

Midmark Dental Health Clinic sees patients Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The clinic is located on the ground floor of Sinclair Building 14, corner of Perry Street (between Fourth and Fifth streets). Free patient parking is next to the building. Morning and afternoon appointments are available, and each appointment is three hours. The cost for the appointment series is $10—$5 for persons 62+ and under 12. Call 937-512-2548 for appointment information

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