UMMC-Dental Mission

First-year dental student John Mathis assists Dr. Akilah Stringer, resident, with patient Chasity Bishop of Florence during Dental Mission Week at the School of Dentistry on Wednesday / SOURCE

The University of Mississippi School of Dentistry’s provided free dental care during Dental Mission Week this past February. During the week of Feb. 6-10, the school shut down normal operations and opened its doors to Mississippi’s underserved community. Patients from the metro area and as far away as Pascagoula and Greenwood arrived well before eight Monday morning to receive much needed care. The goal was to provide dental care to 800 adult patients between Monday and Thursday. As of Thursday morning, expected to be the biggest day yet, more than 450 patients had been treated.

According to an American Dental Association survey, more than half of Mississippians who have not seen a dentist in the last 12 months gave cost as the main reason for neglecting oral health care. Having good oral health isn’t just about one’s appearance. People who have poor oral health tend to choose unhealthy foods over fresh fruits and vegetables at the expense of their overall health. Research has suggested that there may be a connection between oral health and cardiovascular disease, as well.

Dental Mission Week was born from the students’ desire to serve the community. Dr. David Felton, dean of the school and professor of care planning and restorative sciences, said one of the two biggest complaints from students when he arrived on campus was that service learning week didn’t include enough actual service. Organization of the event has involved months of teamwork led by Marla Martin, director of clinical operations. The concerted effort included the School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy and School of Health Related Professions. Even a handful of students from the School of Medicine found time to volunteer on Monday, despite their packed classroom schedule.

UMMC-Dental Mission

Felton assists third-year dental student Christina McRea with creating a set of dentures / SOURCE

Upon check-in, each patient was seen by a nursing student or faculty member for medical triage. Dr. Josie Bidwell, assistant professor in the School of Nursing and director of clinical services at UNACARE, said that triage included blood pressure and glucose checks, medical histories and medications review to ensure patients met basic health requirements for dental procedures.

Students, residents and faculty from the School of Pharmacy staffed a limited formulary at discharge to provide patients with medication to take home: antibiotics, pain relievers or prescription oral rinse, as needed. Dr. Katie McClendon, assistant dean for student services in the School of Pharmacy, said that 121 faculty, residents and third- and fourth-year students from the school volunteered their time.

UMMC-Dental Mission

Dental hygiene students Holly Loft, left, and Meredith Loper, right, clean patient Melissa Smith’s teeth / SOURCE

After medical triage, dental faculty assessed patients in dental triage to determine their chief complaint. Patients were then provided with x-rays and assigned to a clinic based on treatment need: extractions, restorations, root canals or periodontal treatments. Dr. Beckie Barry, professor of dental hygiene in the School of Health Related Professions, said that all 34 students from the dental hygiene program participated in the event, some in radiology and extraction recovery but most providing cleanings.

Twenty-two patients were selected ahead of time from the waiting list of Mississippi Donated Dental Services to receive full upper and lower dentures. John Sutton, a 78-year-old retired auto-body worker from Brandon was one of the 22 selected. His seven-year-old dentures had broken, and he had been without replacements for about a year.

UMMC-Dental Mission

Glover, left, makes minor adjustments to Sutton’s dentures during a fitting appointment on Wednesday / SOURCE

Sutton said that he was impressed by the level of professionalism he was receiving at the school. Third-year dental student Gatlin Glover was assigned to his care, under the instruction of Dr. Barry Rubel, professor of care planning and restorative sciences. Impressions were made on Monday, and Rubel said his team stayed until after nine that night to ensure the dentures would be ready for fitting on Wednesday.

The Mississippi Dental Association helped recruit practicing dentists to donate time or money to the week’s events. Fourteen local dentists participated in patient care.


Media Contact: Alana Bowman at 601-984-1970 or

SOURCE: Dental Mission Week participants care for state’s underserved

Garreco Dental was happy to help the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry by donating Labstone, Flask ItFastone, Mounting Stone, Resilience, and Silaform 70 to help make dentures for the under served community during this wonderful event. Our Research and Developmental Chemist was at the event assisting patients to their appointments and also to provide some hands-on help to the students making dentures.

For more information on UMMC Dental Mission Week contact the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry.