Residents of El Paso’s 79905 ZIP code received important oral health care services during the Hunt School of Dental Medicine’s inaugural Community Clinic Week sponsored by Marathon Petroleum. The event, held at the school’s Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic, provided diagnostic and preventative dental services – including dental exams, X-rays and sealants – at no cost, thanks to a grant from the Marathon Petroleum Foundation.
Residents from neighborhoods surrounding the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso campus attended the clinic to receive dental care from student and faculty providers, and to learn more about the importance of oral health.
Public health initiatives like the week-long clinic are part of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine’s mission to combat disparities in the region while also engaging students with the community. The school’s unique curriculum includes clinical experience within the first year, and required Spanish courses that help bridge communication barriers.
“Public health and community engagement are central to our school’s mission of preparing students to practice in underserved Texas communities,” said Ana Karina Mascarenhas, B.D.S., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., FDS RCPS (Glasg), associate dean of research at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. “Community clinics like the one this week are essential to prepare our students for careers in treating and educating patients on lifelong healthy habits. At the same time, they’re learning more about the residents who live in nearby neighborhoods and their oral health care needs.”
Historically, residents throughout West Texas have had little to no access to affordable care, leading to poor dental health and conditions that can quickly become serious. In El Paso in particular, only 50% of residents visited a dentist in 2017.
This week’s community clinic empowered residents in 79905 neighborhoods to take charge of their oral health, make plans for future treatment and establish a dental home. They also got to meet with the region’s future dentists, the Hunt School of Dental Medicine’s class of 2025.
Maria Rede, a 28-year resident of the 79905 ZIP code, described the checkup as “excellent.” She plans to return as a regular patient and recommends her neighbors do the same.
“I’m relieved and excited that I had the opportunity to come here because I spent many years without going to the dentist and putting off my oral health care,” she said. “I was very satisfied with how they treated me. This is exactly what this community needs.”
After hours of practicing in the simulation lab, Hunt School of Dental Medicine student Hayden Harrison said he felt prepared to work with real patients and he could feel his confidence grow with each visit.
“We’ve been able to give back for about a month now, treating patients. Some of them come in with pain and they leave feeling great and that makes us feel good too,” Harrison said.
“This is a very unique school; we’re getting into the clinic much sooner than other schools and apply some of what we’ve learned this semester. The first patient is always a little nerve-wracking, but you keep doing it and refine your hand skills, as well your interpersonal skills.”
Dental services were provided with the establishment of the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic’s Dental Patient Fund by the Marathon Petroleum Foundation. The fund assists uninsured patients with dental care services, enabling them to address oral health early and receive proper treatment before conditions worsen and lead to other health complications.
“Marathon Petroleum and TTUHSC El Paso are neighbors, and together we share common values. We’ve built a tradition of partnership and are excited about this opportunity to collaborate in the El Paso community,” said Luis Martinez, Marathon Petroleum’s environmental health, safety and security manager. “This week’s clinic is another example of our great partnership and we’re honored to underwrite this program. It’s brings a lot of smiles to faces in the community.”
The Marathon Petroleum Foundation focuses its investments on core areas where it can make a positive, measurable impact, including science, technology and STEM education. The investment in the Dental Patient Fund provides access for Borderland families who might not otherwise have the resources for quality oral health care. This includes residents in the 79905 ZIP code, which is home to both Marathon Petroleum’s El Paso Refinery and the TTUHSC El Paso campus.
Hunt School of Dental Medicine faculty hope the week’s clinic has a long-term impact, encouraging residents to visit the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic for future routine care and follow-up visits, and expanding collaboration with generous community partners to provide the best care to patients throughout the Borderland.
About the Hunt School of Dental Medicine
The Hunt School of Dental Medicine is the only school on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the first in Texas in over 50 years. As part of efforts to improve the accessibility of oral health care in the community, faculty and students provide reduced-cost services in the school’s public dental clinic, the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic.
In El Paso County, there’s only one dentist for every 4,840 residents, compared to the national average of one dentist for every 1,638. Because most graduates establish their practices in proximity to their dental schools, the Hunt School of Dental Medicine will help alleviate the severe shortage of dentists in the Paso del Norte region.
Check out our photos from the event: