Free dental care available at AC

RAYGAN LOPEZ | The RangerAubrie Carouth, dental hygiene major, cleans fellow dental hygienist Josie Brown’s teeth. A variety of dental services are available to AC students and faculty free of charge.


Student Reporter

College students often neglect to make regular dental care a priority. This may be due to lack of time, or it may be that students lack dental insurance or the money to pay for regular dental checkups. Whatever reason, students need to make dental care a priority, according to AC dental hygiene experts. 

“When I was in private practice, I watched many children grow up getting regular dental care,” said Rachel Rubalcaba, AC dental clinic office supervisor. “Then they would leave for college. I would sometimes not see them for a year or longer, but almost always when they returned, their mouth was a wreck. Usually there was a much higher incidence of decay and the majority of them had gingivitis,” she said. 

Overlooking dental health can lead to expensive and painful problems, according to Ashlie Lang, AC dental hygiene lab manager.

“For some, they assume all is well until they notice a problem such as pain or a hole in their tooth…the longer you wait to seek dental care, the more expensive it is to fix. Going to the dentist every six months, we can catch things and fix them while they are small and save you the pain and money of fixing an issue once it gets large enough for you to notice,” Lang said. 

Cavities aren’t the only thing to look out for, according to Lang. “Another thing that is a big problem is gum disease. We all miss areas here and there when brushing. Most of us do not floss at all unless we have food stuck in our teeth. These habits end up leaving plaque behind on the teeth. The plaque, when left undisturbed by brushing and flossing thoroughly, is then hardened by minerals in our saliva and hardened on our teeth. It is now hard like a rock and stuck on the teeth and under the gums and can no longer be removed with brushing and flossing.”

Lang warns that a person may not be able to see any of this happening. “When you go to the dentist every six months, your highly trained and educated hygienist cleans this off with special tools. If calculus is left on the teeth, it causes an infection in the gums called gingivitis. You may be able to see this if your gums bleed when you brush or floss. The good news is, at this point, you can still see the dentist and clear the infection. If you do not see the dentist, the infection can continue and spread into the bones surrounding your teeth. Your teeth can even become loose from this. At this point, you can no longer reverse the infection but you can help to keep it from getting worse by seeing a dentist,” Lang said. 

Neglecting dental problems can also lead to other serious health problems. “Bacteria under the gums affects the entire body and may lead to a list of health issue,” she said.  “Dental plaque biofilm is the main contributing factor for cavities and oral infections.”

 Gum disease may increase the risk of systemic diseases, such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, arthritis or diabetes,” said Mitzi Leonard, AC dental clinic instructional supervisor. 

Amarillo College has its own dental clinic available, with many services that are free for AC students. “Here in the clinic, we offer preventive dental care services such as x-rays, exams, cleanings and sealants for only $35. Students and employees at Amarillo College get the fee waived and can receive these services free of charge. We offer appointments to the public with times and days that vary, depending on the semester,” said Lang. 

Other services are also available, including dental health education. “The other services we provide include nutritional counseling and tobacco cessation. The oral health education we provide is vital to understanding how the plaque biofilm that forms on teeth affects more than just teeth,” added Leonard. 

To make an appointment, call 806-354-6050.

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