FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Florence-Darlington Technical College has received a $100,000 health priority grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of South Carolina for its dental hygiene and dental assisting programs.
Alicia Johnston, the program director, said the grant funded new devices like x-ray machines and sterilizing equipment. She hopes it will help not only the students, but the community as a whole.
Johnston said FDTC’s community dental clinic already treats about 1,500 patients. She expects the grant to allow the university to bring in several hundred more.
“I just took a look at what our needs are and what the community’s needs are, and realized that we could kill two birds with one stone,” Johnston said.
She said the clinic focuses mainly on people without insurance.
“The nutshell of the grant is to serve the community by allowing those who cannot afford dental care somewhere else to come here and receive free preventative dental care,” Johnston said.
One of her main goals with the grant is to expand access to dental services for children.
“We’re really focusing on children who have nowhere else to go,” Johnston said. “There are a lot of children who have never been to the dentist. A lot of people don’t know that their children need to see a dentist very soon.”
Before students can work on patients, they practice on each other and typodonts — a model of a mouth with 3D-printed or cadaver teeth.
“That way, the students can learn how to safely take x-rays without exposing each other to radiation,” Johnston said.
The clinic’s typodonts will also be upgraded thanks to the grant. Johnston hopes these upgrades will help her students be more prepared to enter the workforce.
“I think it’s going to significantly increase the quality of education,” Johnston said.
The community dental clinic is open Tuesdays and Thursdays at FDTC’s health science campus in downtown Florence. Services like oral cancer screenings and cleanings are available at no charge.