Toothaches are no laughing matter. On National Toothache Day, February 9, the UMKC School of Dentistry’s Patient Clinics want you to know they are ready to assist. COVID has understandably forced people to put off some much-needed dental care, but Toothache Day is a timely reminder of the importance of maintaining healthy teeth.
According to Dr. Connie White, who oversees the Dental Clinic at the school, living with untreated dental issues can be debilitating. “It’s like wearing the wrong pair of shoes to the zoo,” she said. “By the end of the day you almost can’t walk. Going through life with a bad tooth is an impediment to so many things: general pain, how you look, what you can eat even.”
When those lingering dental issues become urgent, such patients can seek out the clinic’s emergency services. From root canals to a tooth that has to be pulled, the goal of the clinic is to get people back to some level of comfort.
“The emergency clinic basically serves to get you out of pain,” said White. “Once you’re out of pain, we can move you to a more comprehensive exam and treatment, at a later time.”
UMKC’s emergency dental clinic is open to anyone, whether they are a current patient or not. But for patients without a dental home, White says UMKC’s dental clinic can be the perfect place. After all, when you have a bad toothache, knowing what dental office to call is better than starting to hunt for a dentist.
The school focuses on a team-based approach to providing care. Third- and fourth-year dental students provide a majority of the care at the clinic, but faculty are on-hand to review all recommended and completed procedures. The collaborative focus on care is at the heart of the oral health services provided at the clinic.
“As a general dentist, I often say, one mind is great but four minds are even better,” said White. “Every specialty is represented at the school, and we all work together as a team to come up with the best plan for our patients.”
For prospective patients apprehensive about receiving care from a student, White assures them that the students treating them have honed their craft in the school’s pre-clinic labs. “They perform all the necessary procedures on our simulated models and even learn root canals on actual teeth.”
For current UMKC students across campus, the School of Dentistry offers a special discount program. Students can come to the emergency clinic and receive an Emergency exam, as well as X-rays, for $10. “Even when I started practicing dentistry back in 1981, I never saw prices like that,” said White.
COVID has changed many things in society, and dentistry is no different. The school usually sees about 65,000 patients a year come through its doors, but the dental Clinic has been modified to meet the new safety guidelines.
One major difference for the emergency clinic is that an appointment is now required. Pre-COVID, the school could treat walk-ins but that is no longer the case. To help meet social distancing requirements, the school now keeps a set schedule of who is in the building. On the clinic floor, patients are safely distanced from each other, including in the waiting area. And of course, no one can enter the building without a mask.
With all these safety measures in place, the school can continue its mission of providing crucial oral health care to the Kansas City community.
“The health of your mouth is a window into the health of your entire body,” said White. “It truly is a reflection of how things are working in your body and your overall health.”