- Associated Press - Saturday, June 13, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A new dental clinic in St. Louis will seek to fill a significant need, providing care for many people who haven’t had access to dental care.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1e5W2S8 ) reports that the $23 million clinic opens Monday. It’s a partnership between Kirksville-based A.T. Still University and Affinia Healthcare. Once fully operational, it is expected to host at least 60 dentists at any one time.

The partnership calls for A.T. Still University to supply third- and fourth-year dental students, while Affinia Healthcare will perform the administrative functions. The uninsured will be among the clients.

“We are here today to make a difference,” A.T. Still University President Craig Phelps told public health and education leaders at a grand opening Wednesday.

The last comprehensive dental school in St. Louis, operated by Washington University, closed in 1991. Saint Louis University closed its main dental school decades earlier, though it does host specialty dental education, including orthodontics and periodontics. Southern Illinois University’s School of Dental Medicine is near St. Louis, but its clinics are in the Illinois communities of Alton and East St. Louis.

Experts say the lack of dentists who train, and eventually work, in Missouri has caused the state to fall behind in several oral health indicators. Only 61 percent of adults in the state see a dentist at least once a year, according to statistics from the state health department. The national median is 67 percent.

“We have a shortage of dentists in this state and oral health status is compromised in this state. So this is a very important endeavor,” said Alan Freeman, CEO of Affinia Healthcare, formerly known as Grace Hill Health Centers.

Freeman estimates the clinic will serve 11,375 patients annually. Patients without dental insurance will receive discounted rates of up to 80 percent.

In addition to working at the clinic, students will travel to rural clinics across Missouri. Each graduating class has 42 students.

Daryl Grisby, a third-year student at A.T. Still University, will work in the clinic starting this summer. Grisby, a St. Louis native who moved to Atlanta as a teenager, said he’s excited about working in the clinic for the next few years and wants to stay even longer.

“I know of the need that is here, and I have a special connection to St. Louis, so it would be awesome to serve the community here,” he said.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com


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