Providing care for those who are underserved
A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) was founded in response to the growing need for more oral health professionals in areas where access to care was limited. These communities are home to many people who have difficulty accessing oral health services because of financial, geographic, and transportation barriers. Due to these factors, it is the unique and particular mission of ATSU-ASDOH to seek out, train, and graduate dentists who will provide for those communities.
Fulfilling that mission begins with the selection of dental applicants who desire to become a part of the ATSU-ASDOH family. These individuals are those who have demonstrated service and community involvement as an integral part of who they are and what guides them. We believe that if service to others is what drives an applicant, it will be what drives the dentist they ultimately become. Nurturing and supporting that internal drive to serve those in need is ATSU-ASDOH’s mission.
Guided by our mission to “... be a leader in transforming dental education to improve the health of all communities through service, integrative whole person care and scientific inquiry,” ATSU-ASDOH not only teaches students about the importance of caring for those who are underserved, we engage our students directly with those communities and integrate those principles in both the curriculum and the student experience from the first day of dental school. Some of the unique curricular elements that allow ATSU-ASDOH to serve these communities directly and nurture the service instinct in our students are:
- Introduction to clinic experiences during the first year
- Engagement in service-learning programs and events all four years
- Experience in our special needs clinic
- Completion of a Public Health Certificate beginning in the second year
- Opportunity to earn a Master’s in Public Health simultaneously while earning their dental degree
- Clinical rotations in the community and at safety net clinics throughout the country during the third and fourth years
As the first dental school in Arizona, ATSU-ASDOH began in response to a request to address the critical shortage of dentists in this state, but has always maintained a national vision and scope. One can find our graduates in most states across the country, making a difference in hundreds of communities, whether they’re working directly with health centers and other safety net clinics, or volunteering their time and caring for those in need in their practices.
A.T. Still University’s Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (ATSU-KCOM) was founded in 1892 by Andrew Taylor Still, DO, becoming the first institution of osteopathic education in the world. ATSU-ASDOH is following that pioneering spirit by educating compassionate, community-minded oral health providers to lead the profession.
Development of the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health is a result of ATSU’s mission as a graduate health professions school to evaluate regional and national needs for health professionals. Access to dental care among children, seniors, and underserved communities is gravely insufficient in the United States, especially the Southwest.
According to the 2015 Healthy Smiles Healthy Bodies survey, by the Arizona Department of Health Services, tooth decay is the number one chronic disease in Arizona children and nearly 30 percent of children need early or urgent dental care. In addition, according to the Arizona State Dental Hygienists’ Association, 400,000 of Arizona’s children have serious tooth decay. Only half of these youngsters are receiving treatment. And, according to the Arizona 2019-2022 Oral Health Action Plan, 33 percent of Arizona adults are missing more than six teeth due to poor oral health. Additionally, 57 percent of adults with developmental disabilities rated the condition of their teeth and gums as fair to poor, and over 17 percent indicated they had a problem with their teeth or gums that made it painful to eat.
In Arizona, we have older dentists, in addition to one of the fastest growing populations in the United States. In the U.S., for every 4,000 dentists who graduate each year, 6,000 retire.