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Dental residency Program

The Need for Access to Dental Care
There is a serious access problem to dental care for adults who are low income and have medically complex needs, leaving our most poor and vulnerable at significant risk. These patients have very limited options, and do not seek dental care until a medical crises occur, ending up in Providence St. Peter Hospital Emergency Center (EC). A number of patients present with acute pain and infections requiring extensive hospital stays which could have been avoided with preventative dental care in an outpatient setting. Because these emergency visits do not address the underlying oral health problems, these same patients return time after time, to an already overburdened EC.


Key Facts
  • Poor oral health can lead to malnutrition, speech problems, diabetes, heart disease and fatal infections. Oral disease can be transmitted from pregnant mothers to babies.
  • There are more than 88,324 southwest Washington adults enrolled in Medicaid with an inadequate number of dental chairs in Thurston, Mason, Lewis, Pacific, Grays Harbor counties dedicated to the underserved.
  • More than 1,200 patients are seen at St. Peter Hospital’s EC with dental pain each year.
  • Providence St. Peter Hospital does not have on-site dentists or oral surgeons. Patients can only be offered palliative care such as pain medication and antibiotics.
  • Most EC dental visits are for non-traumatic dental events. Of those, approximately five percent are admitted to the hospital because of critical illness as a result from limited dental care received.
  • Without intervention, underserved populations will continue to suffer, dental EC visits will increase, and health care costs will continue to rise.

The Solution
Providing dental care is critical to improving the dental and overall health among our underserved populations. To alleviate barriers underserved citizens face in accessing dental care and to meet the demand for dental care in our community, Providence St. Peter Hospital is launching a new Dental Residency & Clinical Care program. Modeled after similar programs in Seattle and Spokane, this program will significantly improve dental care access among the poor and vulnerable citizens and improve outcomes of dental-related EC visits. Situated at Providence St. Peter Hospital, this clinic will provide both primary and emergency care to low income and medically compromised adults.

Community Impact
Providing dental care is critical to improving the dental and overall health among our underserved populations and lessens the number of EC visits. This program will provide a seven-chair clinic providing primary and comprehensive care, serving the poor and vulnerable adult populations. Composed of five dentists, three dental residents and two attending dentists, this clinic will provide dental care as well as on-call services 24/7/365 days per year for the St. Peter Hospital EC and inpatient care. Those patients served at the clinic and St. Peter Hospital will include: 

    • More than 12,000 anticipated clinical visits and 1.200 dental care patients at St. Peter Hospital's EC per year;
    • 7,500 St. Peter Family Medicine Residency Program patients, of which 60% are Medicaid/uninsured;
    • Medically complex patients, including oncology and cardiac conditions which present unique medical challenges;
    • Adults with profound developmental delay, including autism, dementia and traumatic brain injury.  This particular patient population experience lack of access to clinics designed to meet their unique needs.

Funding Requirements and Potential Funding Partners
The start-up capital costs of this dental residency and clinical program is $1.8 million to build a 3,500 square foot clinic. The fundraising endeavor to raise the capital is jointly led by a local dental residency task force and Providence St. Peter Foundation. In addition, two major foundations have expressed interest in joining this endeavor, and the project has been enthusiastically endorsed by the Thurston Mason County Dental Society.

It is projected that the clinic will open and begin treating patients by summer 2018 and the first group of dental residents will begin summer, 2019.

Join Us!
Creating a dental residency and clinical care program is an important step in serving our most poor and vulnerable population, medically complex patients, and adults with developmental or acquired disabilities. This program will have a huge impact by improving the overall health and wellness of our communities in southwest Washington. In keeping with the mission of the Sisters of Providence we will not only train the next generation in compassionate care but we will also provide this same compassionate care to those who need it most.

“He had a toothache and couldn’t get seen by anyone… he came to the EC and was found to have a brain abscess due to lack of dental care. He had to have a craniotomy and surgery to remove the brain abscess, which also required weeks of intravenous antibiotics. All of this was due to just not having somewhere to go to seek out care at a time he needed it.”

Diane Hamilton
Critical Care RN

For more information, please contact:

Peter Brennan
Executive Director

Cecily Clemons
Philanthropy Officer

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