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Verderosa and Team Honored
For the 11th year, volunteers from Stony Brook University’s School of Dental Medicine made dental care more accessible for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Dental assistants from the Indian Health Center dental clinic at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota recently presented volunteers from Stony Brook University’s School of Dental Medicine with the Oglala Lakota Nation flag. It was a token of appreciation for the dental care that the group provided during a 2-week clinical mission this summer.
For 11 years now, Vincent Verderosa, CDT, MDT, John Foti, Jr., DDS, and Denise Trochesset, DDS, have organized a group of third-year dental students from the university to bring much-needed dental care to the more than 28,000 residents in the reservation. Operated by the Indian Health Service, the reservation’s state-of-the-art dental clinic draws residents from hundreds of miles.
“Because of the remote location, there are so few dentists in the area to meet all the needs of the local population,” said Verderosa, senior laboratory technician and university support specialist at Stony Brook. “Volunteer dental services such as what we provide are critical to those who live here.”
With just three full-time dentists, the clinic staff devotes most of their time to emergency dental care so patients who need prosthodontic or other dental treatment sometimes have to wait up to a year. Most of the Stony Brook team’s dental work involves treating, fabricating, and inserting full dentures for edentulous patients. In 2 weeks, they complete 60 to 70 arches of removable prosthetics and provide operative care when time permits.
Prior to their arrival, an on-site dentist examines each patient, extracts teeth if necessary, and takes impressions. The impressions are sent to Stony Brook, where the volunteer student team fabricates custom trays then returns them to the Pine Ridge clinic.
The team completed and placed 24 arches by the end of the first week, and the remaining dentures went for final processing early the second week. “Repetition is the mother of learning,” said Verderosa. “By the end of the week, these students have increased their skills, speed, and confidence in what they are doing.” The students then began seeing patients for operative dentistry—from fillings and extractions to endodontics and indirect restorations.
“This is such a great real-life educational and clinical experience for these students and for everyone involved in this program,” said Verderosa. “We are making a difference in these people’s lives each year. But there is so much more to do.” He hopes to find other technicians and clinicians who want to become involved in the outreach program to expand the total time spent providing patient care from 2 weeks to a month or more.
Those interested in participating in the 2-week outreach program at Pine Ridge in 2011 can contact Vincent Verderosa at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.