Students, residents and faculty of the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC took part in the Care Harbor service event last month at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
Patients received root canal treatment and other endodontic care in one of the USC Mobile Clinic vehicles parked inside the arena. They also received tooth restorations and oral hygiene instruction within banks of dental chairs on the arena floor.
This was the school’s third year as a participant in this type of massive local clinic, which this year saw 4,800 access wristbands handed out to patients anxiously hoping to receive care.
Santosh Sundaresan, director of the Mobile Clinic, said that last month’s efforts were vastly more efficient with the use of portable, digital X-ray devices.
Sundaresan explained that efficiency and quality was especially key for Care Harbor because dental care was the most sought-after service offered during the four-day clinic. Ostrow School personnel alone treated more than 400 of the 2,500 dental patients at the event.
“There is an overwhelming need for dental care,” he said. “People are coming here with sensitivity or pain in many teeth; often, we’ll need to rebuild teeth from scratch or fix previous dental work that’s broken.
“This indeed is an eye-opener to see the vast number of people who lack the access to and cannot afford comprehensive dental care,” he added. “Hopefully these events provide an impetus and stimulus to get a structure for more affordable dental care for the masses.”
One of the school’s patients was Shondell Bennett, a Los Angeles resident who knew he could not afford the extensive dental work he needed.
Bennett said he spent the night sleeping outside of the arena in order to make sure he could get into the Care Harbor clinic. Once inside, Ostrow School students performed root canal treatment and a restoration to salvage his ailing tooth. Bennett, who in years past had already had several teeth removed due to other dental problems, said he was relieved to not need another extraction.
“I’ve been looking for affordable care, but it’s hard to come by,” said the unemployed Bennett, who mows lawns and does other odd jobs just to get by. “Being able to come here was a blessing. It would have been just one more pulled tooth had I not come here.”
USC dental student Sumeet Srivastava said the experience of helping patients at Care Harbor was humbling and rewarding.
“Some of the patients had come in holding their mouths and were walking away smiling,” he said. “The gratitude from patients is enormous.”
Roger Fieldman, dental director for the Care Harbor event, praised the Ostrow School for its involvement.
“USC has been an integral part of this,” he said. “Their [endodontics] van relieves a lot of pressure, and they bring a lot of great expertise.”
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