May 24, 2016

Increasing Access to Care

College of Dentistry programs open the door to dental care for underserved children and adults

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, approximately one-third of Americans do not regularly seek care from a dentist1.  The reasons that prevent them from seeking care are many, including inadequate transportation, language barriers, lack of dental insurance, and more.

Ohio State’s College of Dentistry is working to improve access to dental care for Ohio’s  underserved populations. In addition to recruiting students from rural areas in the state so they may return to serve their communities once they receive their dental education and training, the college offers many services to expand access to care.

Interpreter Services

Language can be a significant barrier to patients seeking dental and other health care. For patients who do not speak English and need the services of an interpreter to communicate with their dental provider, the college offers professional interpreter services in more than 50 languages. Recently, the college contracted with Martti (My Accessible Real-Time Trusted Interpreter) to expand interpreter services and make further inroads in removing the language barrier. 

Care for the Developmentally Disabled

As the site of the largest single-location dental school-based General Practice Residency (GPR) program in the U.S., the College of Dentistry’s general dentistry clinic has the resources to provide the specialized care required by individuals  with developmental disabilities. Equipped with state-of-the art technology  and specialized providers, the general practice  clinic provides individualized treatment according to each patient’s unique needs.

 OHIO Project

Through the OHIO Project (Oral Health Improvement through Outreach), fourth-year College of Dentistry students, under the direct supervision of associated faculty, spend 50 days working in community clinics, hospitals, and private practices that provide care to underserved populations. A component of the OHIO Project, the College of Dentistry’s Dental H.O.M.E Coach travels to Columbus City Elementary Schools, providing free dental care to children whose families might otherwise be unable to obtain care due to lack of transportation, lack of insurance, and other challenges.

Nisonger Center

Although it is not part of the College of Dentistry, Ohio State’s Nisonger Center Dental Clinic has long been on the rotation schedule for senior College of Dentistry students fulfilling their 50 days of community service through the college’s OHIO Project.

The Nisonger Center provides a wide range of health care services to patients with developmental disabilities. In addition to medical care, the Center’s dental program  is the largest provider of oral health care services for developmentally disabled adults  in Franklin County.  The Nisonger Center is the only OHIO Project site at which all of the college’s dental students spend time providing care to patients.

Public Dental Insurance

As one of the largest Medicaid providers in the state, the College of Dentistry is an important resource for families—especially working adults with fewer options than children—who otherwise cannot afford dental care. 

“There is evidence that shows that good oral health is important for good overall health,” says Patrick M. Lloyd, Dean of the College of Dentistry. “As the only state-supported public dental school in Ohio, we feel it is incumbent upon us to do everything we can—from providing needed programs to educating the  highest-quality dental professionals—to ensure that all Ohio families have access to good dental care.”


1US Department of Health and Human Services. Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General-- Executive Summary . Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, 2000..