Local News

UNC Dental Students Help To Fill Void In Communities Across State

Posted Updated

CHAPEL HILL — Now that school is back, students are swapping, "What did you do over summer break?" stories. At the UNC School of Dentistry, they are telling tales of cleaning teeth and checking for cavities -- finally being able to feel like a real dentist.

Ryan Frost is "almost" a dentist. Ryan is a fourth-year dental student at UNC. This summer, he spent four weeks treating patients at the Lincoln Community Health Center.

"Some of them think I look a little too young to be practicing dentistry. I have had a few come in and say, 'Are you the doctor?" he says.

Every student at the dental school is required to do a rotation in underserved areas. They provide dental care in communities where people do not always have access to health care.

"When they go into these community settings, they are capable under supervision of providing a fairly broad range of clinical services," says professor Dr. Ron Strauss.

Professors hope some students will decide to practice in those rural or underserved areas once they graduate.

Frost says he does not know where he will end up, but he says this experience has given him a realistic look at the dentist's role in the community.

"It just increases my learning tremendously just by being there," he says.

Seventy-five percent of dentists who graduate from the UNC School of Dentistry do stay in North Carolina. A good number of them do go on to practice in underserved areas.