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University of Nevada (School of Dental Medicine)

The UNLV School of Dental Medicine (SDM) came into existence when key political, academic, and health leaders committed to addressing the state's shortage of dentists — particularly in rural areas — and the lack of oral health access for lower socioeconomic groups. The school was charged with preparing socially aware, clinically adept dentists to address oral health needs in Nevada.

In December 2001, UNLV purchased 18 acres in the University Hospital complex and renovated the existing buildings. With founding dean Dr. E. Steven Smith overseeing a class of 75 students, the school opened the following fall to pursue its mission of improving the health of the citizens of Nevada through oral health care services; integrated biomedical, professional, and clinical curricula; and biomedical discovery.

The school received its accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation before opening in the summer of 2002. Four years later, it was reaccredited with seven major commendations.

In 2004, a state-of-the-art clinical facility opened on the university's Shadow Lane Campus, with electronic patient records and financial systems; digital radiographic and photographic images; and electronic patient education on topics such as dental implants, extractions, root canals, and cosmetic dentistry. A contemporary simulation facility allows students to perform common dental procedures on mannequins, providing preclinical teaching and offering unique opportunities for continuing education. The clinic has recorded more than 63,000 patient visits, many from people who would not be able to afford care in the private sector.

In 2005, the school began offering a 24-month graduate program in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics to 16 highly qualified dentists per year. A new 44,000-square-foot building, scheduled for completion in fall 2007, will house advanced education/specialty programs in orthodontics, endodontics, pediatric dentistry, oral/maxillofacial surgery, and periodontics.

In its short history, the school has developed a national reputation for innovation in its curriculum. For example:

  • Courses are presented in thematic/systems formats rather than discipline-specific formats.

  • With the school's vision of striving "toward perfect health through oral health," the curriculum emphasizes the connection between oral health and systemic health.

  • To help prepare graduates for the business of dentistry, clinical faculty focus on the essential interactions of clinical productivity, patient management, and professional behavior.

  • To facilitate their interaction with the Spanish-speaking community, all students are required to take Spanish their first year.

Recognizing that Nevada's diverse populations present unique oral health care problems, the school reaches out to the community in various ways:

  • As part of the curriculum, student doctors regularly visit "at-risk" elementary schools and local assisted living centers, providing nutritional information as well as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and brushing/flossing instructions. To date, more than 25,000 children and adults have received such services.

  • About 53,000 youth have participated in Crackdown on Cancer, a grant-sponsored program that provides tobacco-prevention and oral health education and oral screenings to all high schools in Nevada, including 35 rural sites.

  • SDM students recently organized Smiles for Success, a program to treat physically and emotionally abused women from the local community.

  • Faculty, student doctors, and staff annually team with local practitioners to provide oral health services at the SDM clinics to underserved children at the Give Kids a Smile event.

School name:University of NevadaSchool of Dental Medicine
Address:1001 Shadow Lane Campus MS 7410
Zip & city:89106-4124 Nevada
Phone:(702) 774-2520

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