Grant brings innovation and access to Outreach site

External image of EastSide Dental Clinic

A newly-received grant will transform learning and care at a School of Dentistry Outreach site. 

Headshot of Angela Hastings, DMD
Angela Hastings, DMD

When Angela Hastings, DMD, clinical associate professor and director of the Division of Community Outreach and Engagement, learned about the Clinical Dental Education Innovations Grant through the Minnesota Department of Health, she knew it was the perfect opportunity for her students and her patients. Hastings works with students on Outreach at Minnesota Community Care in the East Side Dental Clinic, where DDS and Dental Therapy students see unhoused individuals, immigrants, low-income patients and others without the resources for proper dental care.

Hastings saw two big opportunities for the grant, which promised to offer innovative training and excellent care for underserved populations. First, she could increase desperately needed translation services. “In a recent survey, 54% of patients reported being served best in a language other than English, so it was vital to improve our interpretation capabilities” she said. The grant allowed Hastings to purchase eight iPads to supplement the three the clinic already used for interpretation services.

A second function of the grant was to fund digital and telehealth efforts that would train students and improve patient care. “I have extensive experience in utilizing teledentistry and digital equipment in public health settings, and I wanted to share that knowledge with students and increase their awareness on creative ways of decreasing barriers to care,” Hastings said.

“Every single office I have worked at for the past ten years has utilized some kind of digital technology; intraoral cameras and 3D scanners are becoming the norm, and it’s important to expose our students to this technology.”

Hastings sees these technological advances as a benefit for the education of her students and for excellence in care. “When you take an intraoral photo of a cracked molar and put it up on the big computer monitor, patients can visualize the treatment plan you are prescribing,” she said. “It increases health equity and patient education by decreasing the language barrier. A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Moreover, Hastings has seen how these cameras can promote asynchronous learning and teledentistry, allowing students to learn from patient cases day after day, and monitoring patient care from afar.

Hastings’s proposal was successful, and she received nearly $150,000 to purchase the iPads, a CareStream CS3800 digital scanner, Mouthwatch intraoral cameras and updates to additional equipment. This equipment has helped create a more modern, patient-centered experience.

Headshot of Ariana Wetzstein, DDS ’23
Ariana Wetzstein, DDS ’23

The grant has significantly impacted student experiences. Ariana Wetzstein, DDS ’23, grew in her knowledge and understanding of digital dentistry during her Outreach rotation at East Side Dental Clinic. Wetzstein gained experience with an intraoral camera and scanner, creating digital impressions and even replacing a traditional crown that had been placed at the clinic a few years ago.

“I know not every clinic will have CAD/CAM capabilities, but many are introducing new technology and starting with pieces like the scanner I used,” Wetzstein reflected. “This was a great experience, to see how things will work after I graduate.”

Wetzstein hopes the new, hands-on experience she gained will make her competitive on the job market and even encourage future places of employment to invest in these kinds of technology, knowing graduates like her are gaining expertise.

“The way the world is moving, we need to keep up with technology or risk falling behind as a provider,” she said. “Patients will want to seek out care from clinics that use the most up-to-date technology. I’m glad to have tried new techniques and gained new experiences at East Side.”

Hastings is proud of the work that East Side does for the community, and she looks forward to continuing to make advances with the help of this grant.

“All patients in our community, regardless of their ability to pay, deserve access to the highest quality of dental treatment,” she said. “This grant allowed East Side to modernize their equipment, purchase materials and instruments that will create more efficiency for providers and produce better overall health outcomes. My hope is that once a solid teledentistry model is in place, we can continue to eliminate barriers to care and provide more convenient appointments.”