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November 9, 2011

Living Well Foundation donation helps support ULM Mobile Dental Unit

Hundreds of underserved children and adults have received free oral healthcare from ULM’s Mobile Dental Hygiene Unit since it first began rolling through northeast Louisiana in May 2010.

Recognizing its value, the Living Well Foundation recently donated $10,000 to help fund the unit.

Currently the mobile dental unit is parked in Morehouse Parish.  Kim Whorton, assistant professor of dental hygiene, said the grant will fund operational expenses and supplies.

“The mobile dental hygiene unit provides care to citizens in the rural parishes of Louisiana and valuable community clinical experience to ULM dental hygiene students,” she said. “We are so excited about this great opportunity to continue to promote both oral and overall health, and we are so appreciative of the Living Well Foundation’s support.”

The state-of-the-art unit is equipped with all the technology one would expect from any regular clinic and the patients are receiving most of the same services as they would receive from a stand-alone clinic, including a review of their health histories, examination of the oral cavity, teeth cleaning, oral health care instruction, dietary counseling, and patient education.

The unit serves those who do not receive regular dental care due to barriers related to affordability and accessibility, according to College of Health Sciences Dean Dr. Denny Ryman.

Ryman said the unit provides accessibility directly to those areas where services are most needed and could be the only way many segments of the population will get the care and treatment they need.

"The unit is enhancing the clinical experiences of ULM's dental hygiene students by presenting opportunities to practice on a wide array of patients, setting apart the education these students are receiving as among the best in the nation," said Ryman.

In addition to dental hygiene students, the unit is staffed by dental hygiene faculty, including dentists, to ensure every patient who enters is receiving top-notch care, according to Ryman.

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals studies consistently represent the oral health of Louisianans, especially children, as being in a "state of crisis." A recent report noted some progress, though there still exists an unequal distribution of dentists in the state, especially in rural areas.

Ryman is certain the mobile unit is a huge part of the solution to a long-run problem in the state and, with assistance from the dental hygiene department, he was able to extend his conviction to state and national lawmakers, who arrived on the ULM campus last spring to help unveil the new unit.

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