Bringing More Smiles to Colorado Seniors

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By Kelly Caldwell, M.B.A.
From the Summer 2016 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

Jacob Alarid was all smiles as he entered the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, where he is now receiving free care thanks to a new program aimed at helping low-income seniors address their oral health needs. As he took off his U.S. Air Force cap and donned a patient bib, Alarid excitedly expressed his gratitude for the CU Senior Smiles program.

“I come here to save money, but much more than that, I really appreciate the thoroughness of care I receive here,” explained Alarid. “It may take a little more time, but it’s worth it. I feel assured I will receive dental care that will last, and I feel secure here.”

Over 90 patients just like Alarid have received free dental care since CU Senior Smiles began this past February. Supported by a state funded grant through the Colorado Dental Health Care Program for Low-Income Seniors, CU Senior Smiles provides care to seniors, ages 60 and over, who are not enrolled in Medicaid and do not have dental insurance. Similar grants have allowed the CU School of Dental Medicine to serve over 250 seniors in the past, and this latest grant will allow the program to cover even more seniors through the grant cycle, which ends June 30, 2017.

While not all procedures are covered, such as fixed bridges and dental implants, qualified patients receive a personalized treatment plan that outlines all of the procedures needed that are covered by the program. This allows the patient to know if they are responsible for any remaining costs before treatment begins.

CU Senior Smiles is also beneficial for dental students who gain hands-on experience with treating seniors and the complicated issues that can arise. “Through this latest grant, patients will receive over $100,000 worth of free care, which also means students will receive over $100,000 worth of educational experiences,” said Dr. Lonnie Johnson, senior associate dean for clinics and professional practice at the CU School of Dental Medicine. “CU Senior Smiles allows students to better guide a patient’s treatment experience, which they can create based on the patient’s needs without the worry of what the patient can afford. It also exposes students to a different population of patients who might have a more complex medical history.”

Priyanka Panthula, a student at the CU School of Dental Medicine, agrees. As she examines Alarid’s mouth, Panthula explains that the experience she receives through this program helps her gain speed and confidence. “I also enjoy seeing how [CU Senior Smiles] means something to the patient. It is a really great program,” Panthula said.

As Panthula completes the exam, Alarid conveys his delight in being treated by dental students. “I couldn’t ask for a better dentist,” he said. “It doesn’t matter which student you get, you know you will receive quality care.”

Do you know someone who might qualify?

Seniors interested in becoming patients are encouraged to schedule an appointment soon in order to finish their treatment before the grant money has been exhausted and before the grant cycle ends on June 30, 2017. Costs associated with procedures performed after this date will be the patient’s responsibility. Learn more about CU Senior Smiles and how to become a patient.


About the Author: Kelly Caldwell, M.B.A., is the manager of communications and marketing at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine.