January 2, 2018


The Office of Interprofessional Education (IPE) at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has received an $118,000 grant from the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation to create an oral health and dental education curriculum available to all students.

The oral health component will be incorporated into the current IPE curriculum. Students in all degree programs at UAMS are required to take IPE courses.

Kathryn Neill, PharmD, director of Interprofessional Administrative and Curricular Affairs in the UAMS Office of Interprofessional Education, said the curriculum will help students be better able to address the significant oral health needs of Arkansans.

“Integrating medical and dental health care is one way to ensure that preventative oral health services can begin even before age one,” said Weldon Johnson, executive director of the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation. “Combining the delivery of oral health and primary care services offers a comprehensive health system that is efficient, patient-centered and has the potential to provide affordable, quality health care to families throughout the state.”

According to 2010 data published by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, 64 percent of children and adolescents had evidence of current or past cavities, and 29 percent had untreated cavities. Among older adults, 23.3 percent of adults 65 and older in Arkansas reported that they had lost all of their permanent teeth — compared with 16.9 percent nationwide.

“The knowledge our students will gain from this curriculum will help ensure that even when Arkansans are unable to see a dentist, other health care providers will be able to look out for their oral health needs, which is vitally important because oral health affects much more than just the mouth,” said Neill, noting that research suggests poor oral health is linked to heart disease and stroke.

The curriculum will include training modules, live lectures and simulation activities, as well as screening events that will support preventive measures and identify patients in need of further intervention.

The course is being developed by an interprofessional team of faculty composed of Neill, Ashley McMillan, D.M.D., assistant director of the Oral Health Clinic and General Practice Residency Program and an assistant professor in the Center for Dental Education; Gene Jines, D.D.S., director of the Center for Dental Education; Mitzi Efurd, Ed.D., associate professor and chairman of the Department of Dental Hygiene in the College of Health Professions; and Wendy Ward, Ph.D., director of interprofessional faculty development in the Office of Interprofessional Education.

The Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation is committed to improving the oral health of Arkansans. Overall, the foundation has contributed more than $2.8 million to UAMS, including providing operating support for the UAMS 12th Street Health & Wellness Center and the UAMS Oral Health Clinic, as well as scholarships for the dental hygiene program at the UAMS College of Health Professions.

Story by: Yavonda Chase, UAMS Communications