Treatment at the Dental School. Good Idea? Great Idea!


I recently had an older patient come in that wanted a new lower partial denture (a dental device that hooks false teeth to existing teeth).  After the exam, it was determined that only a full denture would work long term for her.  She knew that a lower denture was going to be a big compromise and was adamant that she didn’t want one.  Her next option was a denture supported by implants.  By getting two dental implants, her lower denture would be much more stable.  The only problem was that these were going to add a couple thousand dollars to the treatment.  Even after some discounts, figuring out a payment plan and other options of financing, the patient said there was simply no way she could afford the treatment.   I knew a new partial denture would not work and I also knew the patient would not be satisfied with a complete lower denture with no implants.  So I offered her a referral to a place I believe can help her get what she wants.

Is treatment at dental school a good idea?  No, it’s a great idea!  All schools have clinics where 3rd and 4th year students treat patients.  You may think that you wouldn’t want a student working on you but these students have had countless hours working on mannequins and shadowing dentists before they get to see patients.  And many patients forget that these students are getting graded and they all want to get an A!  Also, you have a seasoned dentist looking over their shoulder, guiding them every step of the way.  Another advantage of a dental school is that fees are usually lower than at a private practice.  The only thing you give up is:  convenience as the school may not be in your neighborhood, a possible waiting list to get treatment, and treatment that may take 1-2 visits in private practice may take several visits at a dental school.  But the dental treatment itself is top notch.

When I have patients that simply can’t afford the treatment they desire, I usually recommend the dental school.  In the Chicago area, we have a school downtown (University of Illinois at Chicago) and one in Downers Grove (Midwestern University).  This option usually works well for retired patients that don’t mind treatment taking a little longer or going in for multiple appointments.