Dentistry students at University of Utah are about to start seeing some new patients. The U has received a 1.5 million dollar grant to treat people with substance abuse disorders.
Whether it’s tooth decay caused by methamphetamine abuse, or mouth infections related to other drug problems, people with substance abuse issues have high rates of oral health problems. That’s according to Glen Hanson, head of the Utah Addiction Center, and Interim Dean of the U’s School of Dentistry. To make matters worse, Hanson says, many of them don’t have access to care.
“Usually if they have a problem, it’s extreme,” Hanson says. “A tooth needs to be extracted or an abscess has to be addressed, and they go to the emergency room to get this care, which is not a good place to get oral health care.”
The school of dentistry has a 3-year grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to provide essential dental services to drug abusers. To get the dental care the patients have to also be participating in substance use treatment.
Dentistry students under the supervision of faculty members are expected to serve about 200 patients. Hanson says he hopes the project will provide unique training opportunities for the students and a model for treating this underserved population.