San Francisco’s low-income residents still face an oral health crisis more than a decade after the U.S. surgeon general called America’s poor oral health conditions a “silent epidemic.” The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation responded in 2001 by creating the Dental Pipeline program in 23 cities across America, including San Francisco.
Locally, the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific operates Dental Pipeline. The site has succeeded in executing the program’s two-prong strategy of both increasing the number of students of color enrolled in dental school and the amount of time dental students spend providing care in community clinics.
“A number of barriers prevent low-income residents in San Francisco from getting dental care, including the shortage of practioners willing to take Medicaid,” comments Dr. Paul Glassman, professor of Dental Practice and director of Community Oral Health at Dugoni.
According to the U.S. Department of Health Resources and Services Administration, the ratio of San Francisco’s population to the number of dentists is 5,000 to 1. The federal government considers San Francisco a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area.
“By extending student rotations in community clinics, we are able to expand the safety-net to reach children and adults who otherwise might not have received dental care,” says Glassman about Dental Pipeline.
Nearly half of America’s dental schools participated in Dental Pipeline, which ended last July for most of the program’s sites. The Dugoni School continues to operate the program with funding from The California Endowment.
To learn more about the Dugoni School’s oral health services in the community, call (415) 929-6501.