Philadelphia – Penn Dental Medicine has a new face in the neighborhood as its 40-foot PennSmiles mobile dental clinic gets a new look. Debuted this week, the new design features friendly faces from the Penn Dental Medicine community that reflect the diverse audience served through this outreach program, and coincides with an expansion of this school-based oral health program targeted to Philadelphia school children.
Outfitted with two dental chairs and all the equipment for dental care, the PennSmiles mobile clinic was first introduced in 2003. Since then, Penn Dental Medicine students and faculty have provided over 5,300 dental visits with children from 22 schools and four community agencies in West and Southwest Philadelphia, providing comprehensive dental care, including diagnostic, preventive, and restorative services. The mobile clinic is part of the larger PennSmiles program, administered the School’s Division of Community Oral Health, that also includes oral health education, screenings, and referral services within classrooms and community centers.
The PennSmiles program plays a key educational role for Penn Dental Medicine students, who participate in the program at some level during all four years of their study. Fourth-year students provide clinical care aboard the PennSmiles mobile clinic, and since 2003, over 1,500 dental students have provided dental care through PennSmiles as a required part of their community health activities. “The PennSmiles program provides both increased access to dental care for Philadelphia school children as well as opportunities for dental students to learn and serve our local community as part of their dental education, illustrating the practical application of one of the core principles for University’s Penn Compact, which is to engage locally through service in action”, says Dr. Joan Gluch, Associate Dean for Academic Policies.
Dr. Andres Pinto, Chief of the Division of Community Oral Health, adds “The PennSmiles program offers a unique student exposure to public health outside of the dental school setting, and fosters understanding of the role of dental public health within pediatric health. We are planning an expansion of services offered in this program, and will gather important epidemiologic information about the oral health of the pediatric population in West and Southwest Philadelphia. This will enable us to collaborate with multiple stakeholders to create targeted interventions to improve access to dental care in our region.”
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