At least 60 people a day will be treated at the new dental clinic opening up on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
The ribbon was cut Thursday morning at the new clinic in University Park, the third public clinic operated by the SIU School of Dental Medicine. With eight treatment bays and several surgical rooms, it is smaller than their Alton clinic, which has 12 rows of six bays in one giant room. But the Edwardsville clinic is brand new with state-of-the-art equipment that will allow students to practice with actual patients and provide more service to the community, leaders said.
Already the existing clinics treat 8,500 patients with 35,000 visits per year, according to Dr. Bruce Rotter, dean of the dental school. He anticipates at least 60 patients a day at the Edwardsville clinic, which was constructed in a renovated building in University Park over the last year.
The building was originally built in 1997 to add this clinic to the system, but was shut down after 10 years for financial and practical reasons. After leasing it to other businesses for several years, the university reacquired it and renovated it back to its original purpose.
The clinic will provide a full scope of dental services, including cleanings and preventative dentistry, fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures, surgery, root canals and implants for adults and children, often at a lower cost than private clinics. Rotter said many of their patients are uninsured or use Medicaid, while others have a primary dental insurance.
One of the top goals of the new clinic is to expand the reach of their Children’s Access to Care program. “We have a lot of at-risk children who need a higher level of care, including anesthesia,” Rotter said. “Right now we have a one-year waiting list at the hospital. This will allow us to increase that access to care.”
Rotter said the clinic also gives dental students experience working with at-risk children and patients from a variety of backgrounds, which makes it more likely that they will work with those populations in private practice.
“Our main goal is to continue to increase the footprint of the dental school, to provide access to care for patients, and to increase the level of training our students receive,” Rotter said.
For dental residents, the new facilities are exciting. “These surgical suites look awesome, and the implant room looks really nice,’ said Dr. Brian Oliveira as he toured the building. He said the new clinic has more of a private-clinic atmosphere, while the existing clinics seem more institutional.
You can’t just go out and be a dentist without working with people first.
Dr. Brian Hamel, dental school resident
Dr. Brian Hamel, who is completing his implant fellowship, said the graduate students value working in the clinic. “It’s vital,” he said. “You can’t just go out and be a dentist without working with people first.”
Dr. Anwar Abdul Nari is also finishing his implant fellowship. “I think this space will be a great venue,” he said.
The $3 million construction project was funded from the clinic operations and equipment use fees, university plant funds and private donations, with parking services funds for the repair and resurfacing of the parking lot.
Among those attending Thursday’s open house were state Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) and SIU President Randy Dunn, who extended their congratulations to SIUE and the SIU School of Dental Medicine.
“Each time we open (a building like this), we’re writing a line in the history of the institution,” Dunn said.
The clinic will open to the public Wednesday, March 1 at 195 University Park Drive. People interested in making an appointment should contact the Alton public clinic at 618-474-7000.