Dental Connections offers three types of access to quality dental care we call the 3 C's: Clinic, Community and Classroom. Through these avenues of care, Dental Connections served over 21,000 patients, providing over 37,000 services last year. These services include, but are not limited to diagnostic dental exams, fillings, extraction, x-ray and a complete set of dentures. Dental Connections is the only nonprofit dental clinic in Des Moines whose sole focus is providing equal access to quality dental care and education through community outreach and meaningful patient connections.
Dental Connections has been serving patients in its clinic since our inception in 1919. We moved into our current location in 1987 when the United Way of Central Iowa (UWCI) built their new offices. UWCI specifically created space for Dental Connections Main Clinic in the new building as a means of centrally locating as many services as possible for the clients their funds serve. The Main Clinic has 17 operatories and sees an average of 75 patients per day. In addition to the operatories, there are two instrument sterilization rooms, a denture making lab and four x-ray rooms. For our dental phobic and pediatric patients, we have the ability for sedation to make their visit less traumatic. In any given year, the Main Clinic sees patients who are immigrants or refugees from 26 countries, and speak 35 different languages or dialects. Dental Connections has 13 staff that speak a total of six different languages. The clinic is able to remove the language barrier by use of interpreters and or the language line. This allows the non-English speaking patient to be fully aware of what is going to happen and puts them at greater ease during their appointment.
The Smile Squad/Mobile Dental Clinic (MDC) travels to sites in the community to provide dental care to patients on site. Throughout Dental Connections history, community outreach primarily took the form of occasional classroom education visits or handouts via parades or community events. In August 1987, Dental Connections officially began a School Hygiene Program in the Des Moines Public School District (DMPS) targeting four schools. All students in the regular first grade were provided dental health education and screening throughout the year. This expanded to providing screening and varnish treatments to preschool and kindergarten as well as 2nd and 3rd graders. In recent years, this care has expanded to other elementary grades, middle and high school locations. The MDC, a recreational vehicle retrofitted with two dental chairs and x-ray machines, made its first appearance in 2003 and began traveling to schools to provide on-site dental care. A second RV was added in 2008 due to the increase in schools and offsite locations we were asked to visit. The MDC now makes visits to schools in eight school districts in the greater Des Moines area and Perry. Last year, the MDC visited over 100 schools, preschools, day care facilities, shelters, community events, businesses and churches. Among the community events the MDC goes to is the Des Moines Homeless Veterans Stand Down, CelebrAsian and Latinofest events. As many as 75 veterans are seen, and over 120 procedures are completed during the Stand Down Event. Over 300 dental supplies and educational material is handed out during the other two events. Services provided include, but are not limited to: screening and varnish application, full diagnostic exam, tooth extraction and fillings, and cleaning. The MDC saw over 12,000 patients and provided over 15,000 procedures. Virtually all of these procedures are provided at no cost to the patient due to their insurance status.
The Nolden Gentry Dental Clinic (NGDC) is a comprehensive dental clinic with two dental chairs located in Scavo High School in Des Moines, Iowa. A partnership with DMPS, the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, and the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation made this clinic possible, and its doors were opened in 2016. The clinic was named for Des Moines attorney, Nolden Gentry, of Brick-Gentry Law Firm. Scavo High School is an alternative high school that provides education to at-risk youth in Des Moines. Many of these students have multiple barriers to quality dental care, so having the dental clinic inside their school provides greater access. Students are able to schedule appointments and get their dental care during the school day. Dental Connections also utilizes the clinic to provide dental care to any child within the DMPS district. Parental permission is obtained prior to a child's appointment, and a member of Dental Connections staff transports children to and from their elementary, middle, or high school to the Scavo location to have their dental work completed during the school day. We have found this option for dental care to be extremely helpful for households with two working parents who struggle to take time off work to take their children to the dentist or for families with limited transportation options. Children are often able to receive treatment more quickly at this clinic than at our main clinic due to the fact that we exclusively treat DMPS children at this location. The NGDC is open two mornings each week. One dentist, one hygienist, and one dental assistant split their time between the NGDC and Dental Connections Main Clinic.