connecticut dental care clinic

University of Bridgeport Provides Dental Care to Those in Need

by Liz Belleau, Communications Manager, University of Bridgeport

In late 2021, University of Bridgeport was awarded a $225,000 Community Health Grant by the City of Bridgeport as part of the American Rescue Plan. After months of meticulous planning, training, and assembling necessary equipment, a team of Fones School of Dental Hygiene members treated their first patient onsite at Bridgeport Rescue Mission, using mobile dental equipment and tele-dentistry technology.

The team, led by Fones Director Marion Manski, was able to bring dental hygiene care to those who need it, in a place where they can easily access it. The patients treated at the Mission were cared for by Fones Dental Hygiene students, who were overseen by Director Manski, Professor Amanda Sargent, and Professor Bianca Palumbo. “The community at large is not aware of how their oral health impacts their overall health and are so grateful for the services we can provide,” says Sargent. “As we partner with more members of the healthcare community to deliver interdisciplinary care, our students truly gain an appreciation for the fact that we don’t just clean teeth, we can be life savers.”

The dental care clinic hosted at Bridgeport Rescue Mission was the first of many clinics this program and team will host. The Fones School of Dental Hygiene has just recently joined a groundbreaking new partnership with Bridgeport Hospital OB Clinic to help provide care and education to pregnant women to promote the importance of their own oral health and the oral health of their babies.

“As early childhood dental caries is still the number one disease facing children in America, we are able to educate new moms on how oral care affects both them and their children,” continued Sargent. “We decided, post-COVID, if getting patients to come to us was a problem, we should bring the care to them.”

Dr. Jennifer Boyce provided tele-dentistry care during the event. Telehealth services allow doctors to interact with their patients without needing to meet in person and have greatly increased the availability of care, particularly for those in underserved communities. It is the goal of Fones School of Dental Hygiene to increase their tele-dentistry capabilities in order to serve more patients who may feel wary about receiving care in a doctor’s office or clinic in a post-COVID world.

“In 2020 the CDC identified that only 63% of adults visited the dentist. This is due to barriers of affordability, low Medicaid acceptance from dentists, lack of dental insurance, or transportation issues,” says Palumbo. “Due to these statistics, the Fones team has implemented tele-dentistry into our curriculum to bridge gaps by bringing portable dental equipment into the community providing preventative and essential dental care.” Governor Lamont’s signage of House Bill 5596 has allowed telehealth services to continue, at least through June 30, 2023.

Earlier this year, the Fones Dental Hygiene team hosted many successful events, including their Senior Smiles event and their annual Give Kids a Smile Event. The team is looking forward to many more University of Bridgeport dental care events in the coming year, providing treatment and preventative care to underserved communities in the Bridgeport area.

“We can make a difference in someone’s life,” says Sargent proudly. “I can’t wait for our students to share in more of these experiences, and to bring much needed care into the community.”

Learn more about the Dental Hygiene programs at University of Bridgeport.