How Delta Dental of Illinois Supports Tomorrow's Dentists

Posted on May 4, 2016 in Corporate Social Responsibility

Delta Dental of Illinois Board members Craig Grannon and Nancy D. Cozzi, D.D.S., UIC dental student Mollie Rojas and UIC College of Dentistry Dean Dr. Clark Stanford

From left to right: Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation Board members Craig Grannon and Nancy D. Cozzi, D.D.S., UIC dental student Mollie Rojas and UIC College of Dentistry Dean Dr. Clark Stanford

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry has been training Illinois dentists for over a century. Delta Dental of Illinois knows how valuable dentists are in helping ensure good oral health for the people of Illinois, and has had a long-standing relationship with UIC.

Training and supporting dental students and dentists who provide care to Illinoisans is a priority for Delta Dental of Illinois and its charitable arm, the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization.

Delta Dental of Illinois has offered a scholarship program to UIC dental students for many years. Delta Dental of Illinois provides scholarships each year to outstanding students who demonstrate a commitment to oral health in Illinois through service in the community. This year, UIC student Mollie Rojas received a scholarship in recognition of her community work through her vast research experience and dedication to building strong patient relationships. Rojas will graduate this month and intends to work in general dentistry in the Chicago area.

Delta Dental of Illinois, a not-for-profit dental service corporation, has a mission of delivering exceptional services and improving the oral health of the communities it serves. Furthering its mission and helping UIC better serve its patients' needs, Delta Dental of Illinois provided a $250,000 grant to UIC in 2007 to help modernize its facilities. This grant provided the funds for the creation of a state-of-the art predoctoral pediatric dental clinic where over 400 dental students have trained since its dedication in 2009.

The Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation works to support and improve the oral health of people in Illinois, with a specific focus on children. To help further this goal, the Foundation hosted a lecture for dental students and professionals at the UIC College of Dentistry in October 2015 that focused on recognizing and treating dental injuries in children.  The Foundation will again sponsor a lecture this year on October 8, covering pediatric oral radiology, dental anesthesia and pediatric oral lesions. This year's speakers will be Dr. Cathy Flaitz, head of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children's Hospital and Dr. Johan Aps, director of the Division of Oral Maxillofacial Radiology at University of Washington.

Strengthening the Safety Net

“Delta Dental of Illinois' support has helped the College to provide oral health care to patients with few options available,” Mark J. Valentino, assistant vice chancellor for advancement at UIC, explains. “The College is the oral health care safety net for Northern Illinois.”

According to Valentino, the College is the largest dental Medicaid provider in the state, and seventy-three percent of the children treated in the dental clinics there are Medicaid enrolled or eligible. Annually, the College's clinics see 29,968 patients and perform 235,925 treatments.

With Delta Dental of Illinois' help, UIC has been able to increase the number of patients the clinic can serve, the quality and variety of services they can offer and the number of students who consider becoming pediatric dentists.

“I don't think we could have done the clinic renovation if we didn't receive the gift from Delta Dental of Illinois,” Dr. Larry Salzmann, clinical professor and pre-doctoral program clinic director in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at UIC College of Dentistry, says. “In order to do the reconstruction of the clinic from a 1970s-vintage clinic to a state-of-the-science facility for the 21st Century, it was going to be challenging from a financial standpoint.”

Providing Care for All Patients

The creation of the Delta Dental of Illinois Predoctoral Pediatric Dentistry Clinic in 2009 increased the number of chairs from 12 chairs to 16, and provides enhanced capabilities to use nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Nitrous oxide is especially useful with children who have sensory issues or dental anxiety, who may otherwise not be able to be still through a dental procedure.

Salzmann describes how this increased ability to work with nitrous oxide benefits both patients and dental students. “It's my hope that [the students] go out there and incorporate those types of patients in their private practices, because they know how to work with [kids with special needs] and how to work with nitrous oxide. We could not have created that situation in the old facility.”

In addition, a recent Community Grant of $10,000 from Delta Dental of Illinois' charitable arm, Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation (a 501(c)3 charitable organization), allowed the Department of Pediatric Dentistry to address the serious need for general anesthesia suites. Previously, patients needing general anesthesia could only be treated at the University of Illinois Hospital. The addition of two general anesthesia suites to the Nickelsen Postgraduate Pediatric Dentistry Clinic will help the patients on the waiting list for general anesthesia dentistry — a waiting list that is currently 12 months long.

UIC is a training ground for Illinois dentists, and Delta Dental of Illinois and the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation are proud to be instrumental in improving access to oral health care and outcomes for Illinois children through the support of the UIC dental program.