Dental services move in-house

Students who need a tooth pulled or a cavity filled can now get it done on campus by the student dental service in the University Center Building.

The on-campus dental service replaced a previous student dental plan that sent patients to Willamette Dental Service, a multi-office service with numerous locations.

Not all students are pleased with the change, though it has been in effect since October. Many students were not aware that the change in the dental plan had been made, and discovered on their own that appointments they had made with Willamette Dental were no longer covered.

For that matter, not all students were completely satisfied with the Willamette Dental arrangement, said Sandy Franz, associate director of the Center for Student Health and Counseling. "The dental clinic on campus has been totally student driven," she said.

Because many students were not aware of the change, many rumors have circulated around campus about the quality of the new facility’s services.

One rumor that has pervaded campus is that the clinic is inferior to Willamette on the contention that it doesn’t do extractions, but Leslie Culligan, the facility manager, said, "We do extractions every day." She pointed out that many general dentists in private practice do not do extractions but the PSU clinic does.

However, the PSU clinic does not perform some more complicated dental procedures.

"We don’t do brain surgery here," Franz said, "but we are offering fairly complete dental services."

The clinic has four dentists on staff, each working one to two days a week.

"We try for two dentists a day," Culligan said. There are two dental assistants and a hygienist.

Dental service at the PSU clinic is not free. An office visit requires a $10 co-pay. This can cover a list of services, among them a routine or emergency exam, x-rays, oral hygiene instruction, periodontal screening, lab fees and local anesthesia. Teeth cleaning is $35; so is a filling. A single tooth extraction is $55, surgical extraction $105. Impacted wisdom tooth extraction is not available. Root canals are done, but failed root canal cases are referred out. Crowns and bridges are available. Clinic hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except closed from noon to 1 p.m.

The history of an on-campus dental service dates back to 2001, when student body President Mary Cunningham’s five-point plan included on-campus dental service.

The administration at that time said it had no plan to build a dental clinic on campus. Any dental plan would have to work in cooperation with outside facilities.

When the PSU bookstore moved out of its old location to the Urban Center in 2000, space was freed in what is now the University Center Building. The Student Health and Counseling Center moved into the building from its old location in Neuberger Hall.

Franz said there wasn’t time to build a dental clinic in University Center during that period.

"We were swamped," she said. "We were working hard just to get the building opened." Soon the university went through an invitational process to recruit applicants to an on-campus dental clinic staff. In the interim, an agreement for student dental care was negotiated with Willamette Dental.

This week Culligan bustled around the clinic’s location at room 309. She had just taken over as coordinator of the clinic, managing the facility half-time and serving as dental hygienist half-time. She counts more than 20 years’ experience in the field.

"We have a huge demand but we’re limited in space," Culligan said, gesturing around the small clinic. "We’re trying to get everyone in. The issue is how to be more efficient."

The clinic has managed to squeeze a lot of facilities into a very small space. There are two dental chair alcoves, called operatories. In one of them a dentist and assistant worked on a patient; in the other, a patient sat in the chair, awaiting his turn.

On the other side of the room there is a hygienist operatory, a location for teeth cleaning. Also in the main room is an x-ray machine, which revolves to x-ray the entire head. A separate space houses a sterilization room, with a "dirty" side and a "clean" side.

"Not a lot of colleges have a dental clinic," Culligan said. To her knowledge, the only other Oregon college with a clinic is the University of Oregon at Eugene.

Informed that there were some student complaints about the change in service to an on-campus facility, Culligan said, "With anything new, there’s always opportunity to make it better. We’re eager to hear from students on how to make it better."

To schedule an appointment, students may call 503-725-2611. A brochure listing all charges and policies is available at the clinic.