The number of people seeking dental care through the clinic has spiked with the economic downturn. Previously, retired individuals were the majority of patients. Now, dental hygiene students are treating 20- to 40-year-olds who have lost their insurance due to unemployment.
“We operate just like other clinics,” said Donna Lesser, director of the Dental Hygiene Program. “Our services are available to the community. We just want to really stress that we have access to care here.”
The clinic provides diagnostic and preventative services, such as dental exams, cleanings and fluoride treatments. Patients needing other dental care are referred through the Tri County Dental Society to local dentist offices that have sliding scale and low-cost services.
Operated for the past 8 years at the Dental Hygiene program’s previous location on the March Air Reserve Base, the clinic re-opened in October in a new state-of-the-
The program recently received a $25,000 grant from the Kaiser Foundation to cover the costs of people who can’t afford the clinic’s fees.
“Because of that grant, we haven’t had to turn anyone away,” Lesser said. “We have families who come in with three or four children who otherwise could not afford dental care.”
The two-year program usually accepts 20 students, but this year, due to the move into a new building, only 11 were accepted. Students graduate with an associate degree in dental hygiene.
Yelena Bobova, 34, of Redlands, will graduate in June. She decided to retrain for a new career after having worked as a physician’s assistant in Russia. She enrolled in the program because the prerequisites were similar to her background in health sciences and because the program is affordable. She says she’s ready to hit the ground running.
“Once I graduate, I will start looking for a job,” she said. “I think there are always opportunities to work in this field.”
Asia Hernandez, 20, of San Jacinto, chose the program because of its reputation for turning out students well equipped to enter a competitive job market. She also will graduate in June. Initially, she plans to temp before looking for a permanent job at a private practice. Ultimately, she would like to work as a dental hygienist abroad, perhaps in Brazil.
“I was attracted initially to the program because it’s a stable profession as far as job opportunities and outlook,” Hernandez said. “But it’s really become something that I love.”
About the Desert Regional Consortium of Community Colleges: The Desert Regional Consortium consists of 13 community colleges and two community college districts in Riverside, San Bernardino and Kern counties. The consortium assists colleges in providing professional development opportunities and designing programs to improve workforce training and technical education. The consortium was formed to address the economic development needs of industry, government and the community.
More info: www.desertcolleges.org
Consortium members: Barstow College, Cerro Coso Community College, Chaffey College, College of the Desert, Copper Mountain College, Crafton Hills College, Mt. San Jacinto College, Moreno Valley College, Norco College, Palo Verde College, Riverside City College, Riverside Community College District, San Bernardino Community College District, San Bernardino Valley College, Victor Valley College