UNM Division of Dental Hygiene
UNM dental hygiene students gain clinical experiences while improving community access to oral health care.

When we think of school clinics, we often think of a school nurse not a dental hygienist, but thanks to the UNM Division of Dental Hygiene more Albuquerque schools are starting to get their very own dental clinics.

The UNM Division of Dental Hygiene, in collaboration with the UNM School Based Health Centers and Delta Dental of New Mexico, currently operates dental clinics in three middle schools, Van Buren, Wilson and Grant, and in December, opened the first high school clinic at Highland High School.

Throughout New Mexico, school children have been receiving dental care via mobile dental programs, but UNM was the first to initiate the school-based permanent dental clinic with the help of Delta Dental of New Mexico.

"We're really lucky to have collaborations like this," said Christine Nathe, clinic director and professor of dental hygiene at UNM. "We've had the collaboration with Delta Dental of New Mexico for many years. When we get the support of the school principals and school-based health that makes a big difference, too."

While the school-based program has provided valuable oral health care services to the community, the clinics have also given UNM dental hygiene students more opportunities to gain clinical experiences.

"Not only are the UNM students learning how to provide care in these school-based settings, they are also learning how to improve access to oral health care," said Nathe. "Our dental hygiene students are getting real-life experiences on how to provide dental care outside of a private office and make a large impact on the community as a whole."

Each clinic is staffed with a licensed dental hygienist who provides dental cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants, individualized and classroom oral health education, dental exams and referrals. They also work with parents, teachers and other dentists to ensure optimal dental health for all the students.

"It does impact your life when you have dental problems," said Nathe. "The younger we start preventive dental hygiene with school children the better their oral health is going to be throughout their lifetime."

For more information on the school-based clinics, contact Christine Nathe.