The organization began less than two years ago as a service initiative to provide oral hygiene to residents of Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home in Augusta. Each month, 20 to 40 dental students provide basic oral hygiene and denture care to nursing home residents, and the program was recently expanded to include free weekly basic dental treatment.
The Horizon Award is presented to a new student organization that has demonstrated excellence in programming, leadership, and overall organization enthusiasm during its first years. Organizations must be chartered for no more than two academic years to qualify.
“Dentists for Della started as a monthly program that provided only oral hygiene, but it has blossomed into a program where we raise money to provide free dental treatment to the veterans,” said Dr. Katharine Ciarrocca, Faculty Advisor for Dentists for Della and Assistant Professor in the Department of Diagnostic Sciences. “After the students spent time there, they wanted to do more for the residents, but didn’t want them to have to pay. It’s a program that dental students in all four years can participate in at some level. We’ve recently had some dental hygiene students ask to be involved as well.”
In January, the college started a new weekly rotation where basic dental treatment is provided to the nursing home residents at no cost. During the Spring semester, dental students provided nearly $5,700 worth of free dental treatment.
“Dentists for Della partnered with the nursing home because its residents generally do not have dental insurance or other oral health care benefits and do not regularly see a dentist,” said Ciarrocca. “Dexterity can also be impaired in the elderly population, so tasks such as brushing teeth or cleaning dentures can be difficult or impossible. In addition, residents cannot easily be transported to a dental office because of lack of mobility or their inability to afford the cost of transportation.”
The Dentists for Della program is named in honor of the late Dr. Victor Della-Guistina, a founding faculty member of the College of Dental Medicine and community dentist who was committed to improving access to dental care for Georgia residents. Dentists for Della was created by former dental students Chris DeLeon, Ryan Fulchi, Ross Levine, and William Bennett. Monthly visits to GWVNH began in January 2010.