The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Dental clinic gives low-cost options

By Victoria Barry/reporter

A dentist visit can be expensive, making it difficult to make the biannual trip recommended for oral health.

Those with insurance can avoid a bulk of the fees, but it doesn’t cover everything, and sometimes the bill may still dig deep into their pockets.

The dental clinic on NE Campus offers a more affordable option.

The dental hygiene program offers panoramic X-rays for $5, full-mouth X-rays for $6, a teeth cleaning for $4 and pit and fissure sealants for $2 as well as preventative counseling. All of these services are performed by dental hygiene students.

Insurance is not needed to visit the dental hygiene clinic, and patients can be as young as 5 years old.

Patients are paired with a student before they are given an appointment and must commit to three to four sessions. Because of the learning aspect of the facility, the treatment completed during one dental appointment is stretched out over a few sessions because the students must fill certain requirements during their clinic hours.

Allison Pfingstag, a dental hygiene student, said new patients are put into a pool and are selected based on their dental needs and a student’s specific course requirement.

Patients receive a call or email with the date of their first appointment.

That appointment “is a screening appointment and determines the classification of your mouth and if a student can continue to see a patient in the clinic to complete her requirements,” program coordinator Cindy O’Neal wrote in an e-mail.

While patients must commit to the three or four appointments, they only pay for their first appointment. Further payment is needed only if anything additional is required, such as X-rays, Pfingstag said.

During one of the appointments, the patient is shown a bill for the general rate a dentist’s office would charge without taking insurance coverage into account.

Dental hygiene student Theresa Chenault said they show it to everybody so people know how much they save by going to the NE clinic.

Only 24 out of about 300 applicants for the program are accepted each year, O’Neal said.

The program is challenging, Pfingstag said. Out of her class of 21, which began as a class of 24, about six students already have bachelor’s degrees.

Students do not begin helping patients at the beginning of the two-year program.

“They must have successfully completed the first semester of pre-clinic, where they learned instrumentation on a mannequin and practiced on a student partner,” O’Neal wrote in the e-mail.

Those who do will continue to care for patients under the close supervision of part- and full-time instructors who are licensed dental hygienists and check every step.

“There’s generally one instructor for every four students,” said Pfingstag, a second-year student. “That way, they have time to go around and check everybody and each step.”

O’Neal said a clinical dentist also is available to help the students and to do exams and diagnoses when needed.

Dental hygiene students gain experience cleaning teeth at Dental Health Arlington, a clinic for low-income residents, and they spend a day cleaning teeth at a prison facility in Fort Worth.

The clinic has been on NE since 1969, when the program was started by Dr. Harry McCarthy near the existing clinic, in a portable building now long gone.

The crumbly concrete from where the steps once stood is now mostly overgrown. It wasn’t until 1982 that the clinic was moved to its existing location in the NHSC building.

The clinic is open Mondays and Wednesdays in the fall and Monday-Thursday in the spring.

Those interested can call 817-515-6641 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian