Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mallory Dawson, a D4 student at Georgia Regents University College of Dental Medicine. Mallory and her classmates participate in the Dentists for Della student organization, which recently received the Horizon Award for being named Best New Student Organization by the American Dental Association. The Dentists for Della program is dedicated to providing quality dental care to elderly and geriatric patients living in the local area. Mallory joined us to discuss the specifics of the program, and spread the word about this initiative.
Can you give us some specifics about what the Dentists for Della organization is all about?
Once a month, over 20 students volunteer under faculty supervision to visit the Georgia War Veterans nursing home. Students clean and adjust dentures and brush the teeth of nursing home residents, and provide general oral exams. Over the past year, we expanded the services we offered, and Junior and Senior students now do rotations at the nursing home. During these rotations, students perform denture repairs and more in-depth restorative procedures.
You mentioned that Dentists for Della was a volunteer program, but is participation now mandatory for GRU students?
There are two aspects of the program. The rotations are mandatory for Junior and Senior students, and they’ve been integrated into our curriculum. These are the days that we provide restorative care and full exams for the patients. On the first Wednesday of each month, any student can volunteer at the nursing home, and that is when students brush and clean the patients’ teeth, clean dentures, and provide small assistance to the patients. This is unique because it lets Freshman and Sophomores get involved with patients before they have any clinical experience.
Approximately about how many patients have been seen so far this year?
Since January when we started providing the actual treatment and rotations, we have seen more than 50 different patients and provided more than $7,500 worth of treatment.
What kind of challenges are presented when you’re working with geriatric patients that you might not see when you’re working with other adults or pediatric patients?
One big challenge that sticks out in my mind is trying to treat patients with severely limited mobility. A lot of these patients are in wheelchairs, and even though we have the basic equipment at the nursing home to provide quality care, you have to improvise when your patients have this mobility impairment. At the school, we’re very used to seating our patients in a chair with great lighting and providing care in a state-of-the-art facility with state of the art equipment, but we can’t always have these optimal conditions at the home. On multiple occasions, I have treated patients while they were standing up. Being able to adapt and provide quality care in that environment is probably the biggest challenge.
How are the patient attitudes toward the students?
The patients volunteer for this care, and they are so excited every time we come in. They’ve developed relationships with numerous students and our advisors. They know a lot of us by name, and they just light up when we come. More than just the dental care we provide, it’s just to be able to smile, to talk, to see a new face that they’re not used to seeing every day, it’s a great experience for us and for them.
Have you had a case that really stuck out in your mind that you yourself or one of your classmates encountered during one of these visits?
I remember one patient who had extremely large cavities on his teeth, and he would never smile and was very self-conscious about their appearance. Over the course of several visits, we were able to fully restore his teeth and create a much more aesthetic smile, and now every time we see this patient, he has a huge grin on his face and a big smile. For us, that’s what dentistry is all about; trying to help people and making them feel more comfortable in their own shoes.
That’s a great story. You’re so right, that’s what it’s all about. That’s why people ultimately get into dentistry, to help people and make them feel better about themselves. Thank you so much for joining us today, Mallory!
Absolutely, thank you!
To listen to our full podcast with Mallory Dawson about the Dentists for Della organization, visit http://thenextdds.com/Podcasts/Dentists-for-Della--ADA-s-Best-New-Student-Organization/.