Community Practice Adds Dental Care Opportunities for Patients, Providers
Affordable dental care can be hard to come by, especially in Upper Manhattan where demand is high and appointments are limited. To help address the dentistry needs of local residents, a new initiative called the community practice at the Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine (CDM) is expanding available care with extended hours and a modified practice model.
Under the direction of Biana Roykh, DDS, senior associate dean for clinical affairs at CDM, in collaboration with Aaron Myers, DDS, clinic director of pediatric dentistry, the community practice was piloted with pediatric services starting in November 2020. Since then, the practice has grown to encompass general dentistry, periodontics, and restorative services. It operates on several evenings a week and two Saturdays a month in CDM’s existing clinical spaces.
A team of CDM administrators, including Fredelyne Paris, senior practice manager for teaching clinics, Martha Adorno, chief of staff for clinical affairs, and Jon Morgan, director of plant operations, has been key to the planning and successful rollout of the community practice. The work has involved managing schedules and supplies, getting personnel situated, and ensuring that underserved patients are well represented among those seen in the practice, said Paris.
“The demand from the community has been pretty strong, especially for our Saturday clinic days,” said Myers, who is also an assistant professor of dental medicine at CUMC. “There was already a great need for oral health care in the pediatric population—we book our appointments months in advance, and there’s always a waitlist. There are lots of kids out there that need care.” The need holds for adult care, too, and with fewer appointments now available during standard hours because of COVID-19 safety measures, the community practice is an important opportunity to increase access to care, he said.
In many ways, the new practice is an extension CDM’s teaching clinics, but the provider model is different: Residents provide care under faculty supervision, but in ratios of one or two residents per faculty rather than the five or six residents per faculty assigned in the traditional teaching clinic. In some cases, faculty members treat patients directly. The cost to patients is kept low, aligning with typical postgraduate teaching clinic fees, with the same insurance plans accepted.
There are other benefits to patients—for example, the pace of care tends to be faster than in the regular teaching clinics because fewer approvals and less supervision are needed with the more experienced providers, said Paris. And the reception is staffed by a consistent group of people, which lends itself to rapport-building between patients and staff, she added.
Currently, 12 residents and 10 faculty across three specialties provide care at the community practice, and the addition of other services like prosthodontics and orthodontics is likely. For the residents, the additional clinic time in small ratios is valuable. “We’re really enriching their educational experience,” said Paris.
Faculty who may not otherwise treat patients themselves are appreciative too. “It’s been great to get back to actually seeing patients directly,” said Myers. “It’s also nice to have those small interactions with the residents.”
“We work with a great team of people. Everyone is very passionate and very happy to support this practice. I’m happy we were able to pull this off—serve the public and the community and motivate our staff to come in and see the need,” said Paris. “It’s amazing.”