The Dental Hygiene Department at Missouri Southern State University has received a teledentistry grant that will expand the services offered to rural students and the elderly.
The $20,000 grant was awarded by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said Jilly Pyle, department chair.
“In the past, we’ve provided sealants for students in second and sixth grades,” Pyle said. “When we go back to Sarcoxie this year, we’ll be seeing 232 students in kindergarten through sixth grades. We’ll also be going to Avilla and Jasper for sealant retention checks.
“The main aspect of the grant is teledentistry. 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.”
State grant funding from the previous year allowed the program to purchase additional portable dental units, bringing the total number to six. The units include a chair, stool, light, a suction component and power source.
Students from Missouri Southern also make biweekly visits to nursing-home residents.
“It allows our students to learn how to build relationships with that age group,” said Pyle.
A primary goal for the program is working toward being able to accept Medicaid payment.
“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,” said Pyle.
The department will also continue to strengthen its relationship with KCU’s Joplin campus, which will launch a dental school in 2023.
“Our supervising dentist with KCU is Dr. Latasha Vick,” she said. “She’s here on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We hope to collaborate with them on future grants and community outreach.
“After the dental school opens, it will take a year or so to get to where their students are actually working on patients. They don’t have a dental hygiene component, so by working with them, patients can get complete oral health care.”