Oregon Tech Dental Hygiene students participated in a community dental health event in Merrill and Malin, Ore., on May 3-4. The event provided 174 dental procedures valued at $20,323 in services.

The Free Dental Days event was organized by the Klamath Basin Oral Health Coalition, co-chaired by Oregon Tech Assistant Professor Darlene Swigart and Klamath Health Partnership Chief Operations Officer Cord Van Riper, an Oregon Tech alumnus.

"Events like these are important to participate in because they help students see that they are part of a community, and there are residents within their communities that do not have access to dental care and do not have dental insurance,” Swigart said. “Once they provide services at the Free Dental Days event, they understand how important sharing their skills can be to the people they serve. Hopefully, after they graduate, they will not hesitate to volunteer in community events that provide much needed services to underserved populations."

Oregon Tech faculty members Swigart, Jeannie Bopp, Stacie Neely, and Brenna Chavarin worked with 24 Oregon Tech students and two alumni to provide dental cleanings with portable equipment in the Medical Teams International Mobile Clinic. Klamath Falls dentists Drs. Andrew and Nick Smith, from Smith Dental, and Dr. Nic Hrabik, from Klamath Open Door, provided expanded dental procedures.

Klamath Public Health and Oregon Child Development Coalition provided interpreters at the event, OHSU-Oregon Tech Nursing students took patient vitals, and Cascade Health Alliance provided oral health take home kits.

Oregon Tech junior Audrey Vanderhoff said the Free Dental Day allowed students to interact with the community and provide dental care in a nontraditional setting. “Community heath outreach is an important component of our education because it allows us to practice working in teams, experience communication barriers and work together to overcome those barriers, promote a positive and fun environment, and challenges us to overcome obstacles,” Vanderhoff said. “The experiences we had during the Free Dental Days provided insight into areas of our education less practiced, acting as an auxiliary to our clinical experience currently.”

"Attending Free Dental Days taught me the value of working as a team and doing what you can to help each other remain efficient and effective even when working beyond our typical environment,” sophomore Gabriella Gliatto said.

The Oregon Tech Dental Hygiene Clinic provides care to community members for reduced fees. To learn more about the clinic, visit https://dentalclinic.oit.edu/.