Champions of Oral Health: Children’s Dental Clinic of Coshocton a collaborative effort

The Children’s Dental Clinic of Coshocton is one of the oldest safety net dental clinics treating low income kids in Ohio. The clinic opened in 1986 and is a cooperative effort with the Ohio State University College of Dentistry.

Dr. Brian Dunlap, director of the clinic, said the clinic has seen long-term success thanks to involvement and cooperation among various people and groups in the community.

“We’ve been real fortunate to have good leadership in the past. We’ve had very good support through community foundations,” he said.

The clinic sees children under 18, and most of them are Medicaid eligible. Low income patients who are not Medicaid eligible are treated on a sliding fee scale. The clinic sees about 2,000 children each year.

Dental students from OSU staff the clinic two days a week through the OHIO Project, where fourth-year dental students spend 50 days providing care in community clinics across the state. A pediatric dentist fellow oversees three students at a time at the Children’s Dental Clinic of Coshocton. Dental hygiene students also work in the clinic.

Dunlap practiced dentistry at the clinic when he was a student and said it was a great opportunity to see more challenging cases that he had not seen in dental school or at other locations.

“It gave me a lot more opportunities to treat more advanced cases,” he said. “A lot of times the kids at the clinic haven’t seen a dentist ever. I got to see and do more things than at Ohio State.”

The program began in the 1980s after the area had been busing children in the Head Start program (a program that promotes school readiness of children from low-income families) to Children’s Hospital in Columbus for dental care. This became logistically difficult, so several local dentists, the children’s hospital and OSU collaborated to open the clinic. It was one of the first collaborations of its kind in the state. Children’s Hospital donated the space used for the clinic, OSU students staff the clinic, and a board of three dentists oversees the clinic. 

Dunlap said the clinic has been a great resource for the community and has helped free up the ER from treating oral health issues.

“A lot of low income people end up in the ER, with infections or tooth aches or things we could manage very simply with regular dental visits. That’s been a very big value,” Dunlap said.