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May 13, 2010

Louisiana delegates to attend unveiling of new ULM Mobile Dental Unit May 14

Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Congressman Rodney Alexander, R-La., and other dignitaries will be in attendance as the College of Health Sciences at the University of Louisiana at Monroe unveils its new Mobile Dental Hygiene Unit on Friday, May 14.

The 42-foot long, fully equipped Mobile Dental Hygiene Unit is made possible through an appropriations allocation of roughly $1.3 million, which was designated to better address the oral healthcare needs of rural Louisianans.

Under Senator Landrieu’s leadership, and with support from Congressman Alexander, the Louisiana delegates helped steer the bill through both houses of Congress as members of their respective appropriations committees.

President Obama signed the Omnibus Appropriations bill into law in March, followed by notification from the Health Resources and Services Administration that ULM would receive the appropriation.

The new unit has the potential to reach hundreds of Louisianans every year who do not receive regular dental care due to barriers related to affordability and accessibility, according to College of Health Sciences Dean Dr. Denny Ryman.

“By providing these services, particularly in the rural parishes of northeast Louisiana, the college and university aspire to improve the dental health of children and adults, and ultimately the work force in the Louisiana Delta,” he said.

Local dignitaries scheduled to celebrate the unveiling of the new unit on May 14 will also include Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, who is committing operational funds on behalf of the city and its council members, along with ULM President James Cofer, who said that ULM is indebted to state and local officials for their hard work on behalf of the university.

“We are also proud of the hard work of our College of Health Sciences faculty and staff, who continue to provide quality educational opportunities for our students, as well as the kind of outreach that is so vital to the health of Louisiana citizens,” said Cofer.

The unit offers three full-service dental operatories and will be staffed by part time dentists, dental hygiene students and dental hygiene faculty. Patients may expect many of the same services as they would receive from a stand-alone clinic, including a review of their health histories, examination of the oral cavity for oral cancer or other diseases, teeth cleaning, oral health care instruction, dietary counseling, and patient education. A dentist can also recommend the application of sealants, according to Ryman.

Louisiana’s oral health, specifically in children, is in a “state of crisis,” according to a study by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. The report noted unequal distribution of dentists in the state, especially in rural areas.

Ryman said the unit provides accessibility directly to those areas where services are most needed and could be the only way many segments of the population will get the care and treatment they need.

“In addition,” said Ryman. “This acquisition will enhance the clinical experiences of ULM’s dental hygiene students by presenting opportunities to practice on a wide array of patients with moderate to severe oral pathology, setting apart the education these students receive as among the best in the nation.”

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