The dental hygiene department at Missouri Southern State University has received a teledentistry grant that will expand the services offered to rural students and older people, university officials announced this week.
The $20,000 grant was awarded by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Dental hygiene students, working in partnership with supervising dentist Dr. Latasha Vick, of Kansas City University, will use the funding to visit hundreds of elementary school-age children in Sarcoxie, Avilla and Jasper for sealant retention checks, said Jill Pyle, who chairs the department.
Grant funding from prior years had allowed the program to purchase additional portable dental units, bringing the total number to six. The units include a chair, a stool, a light, a suction component and a power source.
“The main aspect of the grant is teledentistry,” Pyle said in a statement. “The dentist won’t be with us, so we’ll do the screening, take pictures and upload them online for the dentist at KCU to review and prescribe the sealant if needed. We’ll also offer an oral-hygiene station with toothbrush and flossing instruction.”
Missouri Southern students also will make biweekly visits to nursing home residents, Pyle said. A primary goal of the dental hygiene program is working toward being able to accept Medicaid payment, she said.
“The whole point is to be able to sustain the funding after the grant is completed … to be able to offer these services and be reimbursed for the cost of the product,” she said.
The department will also continue to strengthen its relationship with KCU’s Joplin campus, which will launch a dental school in 2023.
“After the dental school opens, it will take a year or so to get to where their students are actually working on patients,” Pyle said. “They don’t have a dental hygiene component, so by working with them, patients can get complete oral health care.”