A new clinic aimed at providing northeast Oklahomans with less costly dental care while training the next generation of young dentists is now open to the public.
The OU College of Dentistry’s Delta Dental of Oklahoma Comprehensive Care Clinic, located at OU-Tulsa, will officially hold a ribbon-cutting later this month, but it began receiving patients a few weeks ago, officials said, and is already showing why it was desperately needed.
“We are inundated,” said Dr. Rieger Wood, the clinic’s director of operations. “We began screening in June and accepted about 160 patients. We’ve got almost another 100 waiting in the queue wanting to be screened.”
Wood added: “I had concern whether we would have enough patients to support this location, support our students. Because you’re basically starting a practice from scratch. So the response has been wonderful.”
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The intent of the state-of-the-art clinic — located on the third floor of the OU Health Physicians Schusterman Center Clinic, 4444 E. 41st St. — is to give dentistry students a setting to learn in, Wood said, while providing comprehensive oral health care to Oklahomans who need more affordable services.
Fees for services are about one-third of what they would be at a private practice, he said.
Care is provided by third- and fourth-year dental students under the supervision of licensed dental faculty members.
Total cost of the new clinic, including equipment and site renovations, was $3.4 million, with $2 million coming as a gift from OU Dentistry partner Delta Dental of Oklahoma and its foundation.
Building off of OU’s longtime original clinic in Oklahoma City, the Tulsa clinic is the first of several clinical extensions anticipated throughout the state.
Wood said if the clinic has one need so far, it’s for more pediatric patients.
“We have pediatric dentists that are here on Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings,” he said. “And pediatric patients don’t have to be screened.”
Officials said Oklahoma’s poor standing nationally — ranking 49th for access to affordable dental care — was a motivating factor in the college’s decision to expand.
Over the last five years, OU Dentistry has provided dental and emergency care to over 285,000 patients at the Oklahoma City location, with nearly one-quarter of them traveling from the northeastern part of the state, officials said.
The college also serves many indigent patients, many of whom live in northeastern counties and do not have access to dental care.
The new Tulsa clinic “is I think one of the best things to happen for Tulsa in years because there’s such a need,” said Dr. Sharon Wann, who as an assistant group practice director oversees students at the clinic.
“A lot of the people from eastern Oklahoma who used to travel to Oklahoma City are now being transferred here. We’ve even had patients from Arkansas coming over.”
For more information, call 918-619-4000 or go online to dentistry.ouhsc.edu/patients.