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Patient-centered Care Facilities

The community health centers and private practices that are used for student rotations must be patient-centered delivery systems. This means that the sites’ primary goal is the delivery of high-quality care to patients. The educational components of student experiences must support rather than detract from the major mission of these clinics and practices. Students should have access to all the physical, administrative, and personnel resources necessary to provide high-quality care efficiently to underserved patients. In this type of setting, students are expected to average six to eight patient visits per day.

Some schools own and/or manage the community clinics used for the student rotations. To qualify for the Dental Pipeline program, these delivery sites must be patient-centered and operate at a comparable level of efficiency to non-dental school owned facilities.

Community Health Centers
The objective of the public and voluntary sector clinics – the “dental safety net” – is to provide services to low-income populations that do not have financial or physical access to the private sector dental care system. Community sites include:

  1. Public-sector clinics that provide care to underserved populations such as
    1. Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (FQHCs)
    2. Community health centers that are not federally qualified
    3. County and municipal dental clinics run by health departments
    4. School-based health centers and dental facilities in federal and state facilities (e.g., armed forces, prisons, and veteran and municipal hospitals)
  1. Voluntary sector clinics
    1. Clinics in community, not-for-profit hospitals
    2. Clinics owned and operated by professional or charitable groups such as the local dental society, Elks, Rotary Club, etc.
    3. Under certain circumstances dental school clinics can also serve as patient-centered, community-based delivery sites.

Many of these dental facilities are equipped with very few dental operatories, so only one or possibly two students can be assigned to any one of these clinics at a time. The critical factors in their selection for participation are the clinic director’s interest in an arrangement with the dental school and the adequacy of the facilities, equipment, and staff. To make the experience meaningful to students, they should not be assigned to dental facilities that cannot provide dental assistants.

Private Practices
The offices of dentists in private practice are excellent sites for training students, most of whom will eventually own their own practices.  In some dental schools, the private practitioner also serves as clinical instructor in the on-site dental school clinics.  These practitioners find it easier to host a student in their private practice, because they are more familiar with the school’s teaching expectations and already have gained credibility as part of the teaching staff.

Most practices have at least a few Medicaid eligible or low-income patients that can be assigned to students. If not, social service agencies can easily arrange for students to see qualified patients. As with public dental facilities, adequate physical facilities, equipment, and staff must be available to students.




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