Del Mar College’s dental hygiene clinic offers free dental cleanings to the community.
Patients can also receive oral cancer screenings, radiographs (X-rays), dental hygiene tips and even dental sealants (a thin plastic coating placed on the chewing surfaces of teeth to help prevent decay).
“As a working college student, I don’t have much money to spare on any extra charges that come with dentist appointments,” said Megan Trevino, a former patient and current student at Del Mar College.
After visiting DMC’s dental clinic, at which Trevino received services for no cost, it made her interest toward the program increase so much so that she changed her major to dental hygiene.
An average dental cleaning at a dentist office costs between $50 and $350, according to the website Cost-Helper Health. A typical X-ray costs $20-$250 per visit and dental sealants cost about $45 per tooth. DMC offers the same services for no cost to patients.
Procedures are performed by students while under the supervision of instructors.
Appointments and services that are free and low cost are limited and difficult to locate because of the sharp rise in prices for basic services.
It is quick and easy to become a patient and be assigned to one of the program’s students, according to Jireh McCann, a first-year dental hygiene student at DMC.
Anyone in the community who is interested in the services can call 361-698-2854 to reserve a place on a list. Once a student who can treat that patient is ready, the clinic will call to arrange a time to start treatment.
Patients are selected for treatment based on meeting the educational and clinical requirements of students. Patient treatments are based on where students are clinically in their studies and may vary by semester.
Application for treatment does not ensure treatment. Final selection of patients will be made by the dental hygiene clinic based on if they can properly treat certain cases.
New patients begin with a 30-minute screening to see what type of cleaning they will need. All appointments are within a three-hour timespan.
“It is free, but we do ask for your time,” McCann said.
Being able to “interact with the community and give back” is what motivates McCann the most in pursuing her dental hygiene career. She is a native of Chicago and hope to pursue her career back at home once she finishes school.
One of the challenges, McCann said, can be finding multiple patients to work with. The program would like to see more people interested in becoming patients so students have more hands-on experience, which is required for their completion.
“The most common service that people come in for is free teeth cleanings,” McCann said.
The dental hygiene clinic’s hours during the spring semester are 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 9 a.m. to noon Friday.
For more information, call 361-698-2854.