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Student dentists bring healthy smiles to area residents

By Keneisha Deas
On February 19, 2012

Cynthia Livingston has been getting her teeth fixed at the Howard University College of Dentistry since she was 9 years old. Livingston won't give her current age, but it's a safe guess that was more than a few decades ago.

 Over those years, she said, she had a lot of work done, from tooth extractions to crowns.

 "I've had fillings and root canals, almost anything you can think of having done at a dental office," said Livingston, director of Community Services at Howard University Hospital. "They've done excellent work. I've never been dissatisfied.

 "It's also cheaper than going out to a public dentist," she said with a wink.

 Livingston is one of thousands of Washington area-residents who are treated annually at the College of Dentistry.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, dozens of students provide much needed dental services at reduced costs. The school also provides evening clinics from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays for those who can't leave work for dental care.

The college provides a wide variety of dental services, including orthodontic care, such as braces and other methods to align the teeth, dental care for children, deep cleanings below the gums, extractions, crowns, dental surgery and other services.

Michelle Aguilos is president of the college's student council and one of the many students who provide dental care to the Washington-area community.

She encourages residents to use the school whether they have insurance or not because the prices are much lower than at a regular dentist's office and because the students offer quality care.

"You can save as much as a third to a half of what you would normally pay," said Aguilos, a 26-year-old fourth-year student, "and you know it's done right because the faculty is right there for every step in the process."

For those living in the Baltimore area, the dental college at the University of Maryland in Baltimore offers similar services. Established in 1840, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry is the world's first dental college.

"Here in Baltimore, we are a complete and comprehensive service for dental care," said Megan Moorefield, assistant director for the Office of Institutional Advancement. "We specialize in a variety of services, which include oral surgery and dental hygiene."

For the fiscal year of 2011, the school treated 24,366 adults and 5,220 children, Moorefield said.

"We also have Plus Clinic, which is the state's largest dental treatment center for HIV patients," she said.

The Rev. Morris Shearin, the pastor of Israel Baptist Church in Washington, uses Howard's College of Dentistry for his dental work.

"I think it's great that the students are the ones providing the service," Shearin, 71, said. "I've been to the College of Dentistry twice and each time the student I had was excellent."

Howard students also use the college. Angelica Hill, 21, of Columbia, S.C., turned to the College of Dentistry when she needed to have her four wisdom teeth pulled.

"It was $400 a tooth and I needed all four done," said Hill, a graduating senior. "I really couldn't afford it."

So, she headed to the College of Dentistry during her sophomore year where she had the procedure done at no cost.

"It was good," Hill said. "I was afraid to have my teeth pulled. The students made me feel comfortable. The students did everything, but the dentists would make sure it was done correctly.

Leo E. Rouse, dean of the college, said to have students working on people from the Washington community is an important part of their education.

"Our goal is preparing graduates to give back," Rouse said. "It's not just about drilling and filling, it's all about service."

Reporter Kelsey Evers contributed to this story. 

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