The dental hygienists-in-training who work at the clinic under the observation of a dentist and licensed hygienists can clean patients' teeth and take a full-mouth X-ray image, often for under $100. That price is likely at least half of what it would cost an uninsured person to obtain the similar service from a private dentist in the area, according to Phyllis Spragge, dean of biology and health sciences at Foothill. However, the appointment is likely to take almost twice as long as it would in a regular office.
"It definitely helps serve an important community need," says Spragge, a registered dental hygienist and a supervisor at the clinic. "Many people lack dental insurance and lack the ability to pay for dental care."
The clinic is able to keep costs down because it is "a teaching clinic," where future hygienists learn the ins and outs of cleaning teeth by practicing on live patients. No cavities are filled and no surgery is performed. Spragge and a licensed dentist are always on site, however, making sure the students are following procedure and are ready to step in if necessary.
Maintaining oral health is critical, Spragge said, noting that the medical community has observed a link between the health of a person's teeth and gums and their cardiovascular health.
Not everyone will be able to receive care from the clinic, Spragge said. The student hygienists can take care of basic cleaning and X-ray imaging only. And, Spragge added, "This isn't a replacement for a regular office. Our appointments are three hours long. Patients will get excellent care, but it's not going to be an hour-long appointment, like at a regular office."
The clinic is open through July, but will be closed in August. For more information on the Foothill clini, call 949-7335, or visit foothill.edu/bio/programs/dentalh/clinic.php.