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Panther Smiles Clinic: Reducing Barriers to Acute and Comprehensive Dental Care at a Free Community Health Clinic

Means, Katelyn Cheyenne (2022) Panther Smiles Clinic: Reducing Barriers to Acute and Comprehensive Dental Care at a Free Community Health Clinic. Master Essay, University of Pittsburgh.

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Dental caries, also known as dental cavities, is the most common noncommunicable disease in the world. Left untreated, some dental infections can be life threatening. Dental disease is a public health concern: poor oral health outcomes are most often seen in individuals with low-income or uninsured status, which can be compounded by other barriers to care. Establishing the dental home early is a critical tool to combat caries rates in children, but the concept of a dental home is also applicable to adults re-entering the dental setting. A proposed theory of change to reduce barriers to acute and comprehensive dental care assumes that interventions should be focused on increasing access to the dental healthcare sector and therefore establishing the dental home. Interventions should be targeted at all levels: individual outreach through large-scale policy.
Free clinics exist to provide care to underserved populations and are staffed by volunteers. These clinics often exclude dentistry. Dental students in their clinical years are encouraged to participate in volunteer opportunities for their own benefit and services to the community. In Pittsburgh, the Panther Smiles Clinic began as a community outreach opportunity for students at Pitt Dental Medicine at an established free medical clinic. The project has since grown into an oral health care resource for the region’s uninsured community. At the clinic, patients receive a dental screening where oral health needs are identified and referrals are made to Pitt Dental Medicine and other community clinics for acute or comprehensive dental care. Hopefully, with the goal of establishing a dental home.
Evaluation of the clinic’s outcomes and impact on the population it serves is essential to guide decisions about the future of the Panther Smiles Clinic and similar volunteer efforts nationwide. Such student operated clinics have the opportunity to fill the profound gap in access to oral health care in America.


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Item Type: Other Thesis, Dissertation, or Long Paper (Master Essay)
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Means, Katelyn Cheyennekatemeans@pitt.edukcm48
ContributionContributors NameEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFinegold, David Ndnf@pitt.edudnfUNSPECIFIED
Committee MemberCooke, Matthew Rmrc99@pitt.edumrc99UNSPECIFIED
Date: 12 May 2022
Date Type: Completion
Number of Pages: 37
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Multidisciplinary MPH
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master Essay
Refereed: Yes
Date Deposited: 12 May 2022 17:18
Last Modified: 12 May 2022 17:18


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