About two dozen students at Rogue Community College have a way to help those whose New Year's resolutions include improving their oral health.
Starting Jan. 8, students in the Dental Assistance program will take appointments with eligible patients for full-mouth X-rays, free of charge. It's part of a yearly tradition in which the students help community members while gaining experience for the clinical exams they'll take to be certified at the end of their program.
Carmen Mons, training services coordinator for the dental assistant program, said that students have been preparing for this part of their training for months and every year the program attracts more people.
"We meet the needs of quite a few community members by taking those X-rays," she said.
A full set of dental X-rays can cost over $150, which can be prohibitively expensive for some, particularly those without dental insurance. Studies have shown that people without insurance are significantly less likely to visit the dentist regularly, although Mons said that was not her experience in working in dentistry for 30 years.
"It's more than what a lot of people realize," she said about the number of uninsured people coming to the dentist.
A 2013 study on dental care affordability and accessibility found that 56 percent of uninsured Americans were forgoing preventive care (which includes X-rays). Cost was the main reason.
To participate in the free X-rays the RCC students will be taking, a prospective patient needs a signed prescription note from his or her dentist. If, however, the patient does not have a regular dentist, Mons said the students will work to find one in the area who could approve the X-rays.
"It's certainly not something to discourage someone if they don't have a regular dentist by any means," she said. "The sooner they can contact us will give us more time to work with them."
The costs of dental X-rays are at least partially covered by most insurance plans. The Oregon Health Plan provides complete coverage for X-rays, for example, with some limits on how frequently they can be paid for. Full-mouth X-rays are only needed every three years, minimum.
Even people who are covered for dental X-rays under their insurance will sometimes come when they need them, Mons said, for the benefit of the students themselves.
"Most of the individuals that come in really appreciate and enjoy the fact that they're participating in a student's learning experience," she said.
For those interested in getting a free dental X-ray, reach Mons at 541-245-7750 or email@example.com. Learn more about the dental assisting program at RCC by visiting www.roguecc.edu/dental.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4407 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.