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Students discuss dental care availability, support increased awareness

Students covered by the University of California Student Health Insurance Plan have flexibility in choosing their dentist under the preferred provider organization policy. (Pinkie Su/Daily Bruin)

By Michael Zhang

March 12, 2017 10:23 p.m.

This post was updated on March 14 at 6:50 p.m.

Some students and dentists think the accessibility of UCLA’s dental services can be improved.

Although some students are aware of the available resources, they can be discouraged by inconvenient scheduling or long wait times. Others are unclear about the scope of the dental coverage provided by the University of California Student Health Insurance Plan.

UC SHIP covers two diagnostic exams per year, as well as basic oral surgery and treatment procedures. More advanced procedures like crowns and bridges are also covered, according to the coverage document listed by Delta Dental, the dental insurer for UC SHIP.

UC SHIP dental coverage is provided under a preferred provider organization, or PPO, policy, which gives students more flexibility to choose their dentist than a health maintenance organization policy does.

However, many students are not fully utilizing the benefits of the PPO policy, said Omar Guillen, a practicing dentist in Westwood. Guillen said about 90 percent of the students he sees are covered by UC SHIP, but they don’t come to him regularly.

Guillen said he thinks many students do not take enough preventative care of their teeth. As a result, they come into his practice with serious oral health issues, such as periodontitis, or gum infection.

“I’ve had a few instances where I’ve had to remove teeth on a 19-year-old,” Guillen said. “That’s something I’ve never seen anywhere else.”
(LeAnn Woo/Daily Bruin)

The UCLA School of Dentistry has a general clinic on campus that provides free oral screenings. However, Guillen said he thinks scheduling appointments with the clinic can be difficult, which can discourage student visits.

The UCLA School of Dentistry does not currently have partnerships with the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center to emphasize preventative care, said Paulo Camargo, associate dean for clinical dental sciences at the School of Dentistry. Instead, the bulk of the relationship between the two institutions consists of referrals from the Ashe Center to the School of Dentistry’s clinics.

He added that UCLA students make up a relatively small percentage of patients at the School of Dentistry’s clinic, with most coming in for the extraction of wisdom teeth.

Asavari Tiku, a second-year neuroscience student, said that although she knew UC SHIP provided dental coverage, she has never used the plan. She added she isn’t sure which specific dental services are covered.

[Related: UCLA dentistry students put skills to the test with free screenings]

Students who have utilized the clinic at the School of Dentistry spoke positively about the quality and value of care they received there, but mentioned that the length of the visit was longer than expected.

Taylore Thomas, a first-year African American studies student who receives coverage under UC SHIP, said she was satisfied with the treatment she received at the School of Dentistry’s clinic for a broken tooth.

“Instead of paying $150 per tooth, (I paid) only $60 per tooth,” Thomas said.

She added that she had to wait for one hour to start the procedure, and that the procedure itself took two hours.

Kaitlyn Walker, a first-year pre-communications studies student said she knew a friend who underwent a free screening at the clinic.

“He said it was a long process,” Walker said. “He had to go back and forth and sometimes they’re not as time efficient.”

Camargo said though the dentistry school is open to students coming in for their services, he acknowledges the dentistry students are slower in providing care than a private provider would be.

The Ashe Center hopes to use space on the second floor formerly occupied by the pharmacy to provide dental services, said John Bollard, the Ashe Center’s chief of operations, in 2016. Camargo said there has been discussion between the Ashe Center and School of Dentistry, but an agreement has not been reached.

James Lin, a first-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, said he thinks creating a dental clinic in the Ashe Center would be a good idea, since he normally goes back home for dental treatment to use his insurance.

Guillen said he hopes the patients he sees will learn more about oral hygiene options and focus on their preventative care.

“A lot of students don’t know a lot about dental care, despite coming from savvy backgrounds,” he said.

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Michael Zhang | Online director
Michael Zhang is the Online director. He was previously an assistant Design director.
Michael Zhang is the Online director. He was previously an assistant Design director.
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