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Geriatric Mobile Dental Unit

The Geriatric Mobile Dental Unit (GMU) at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry is an extramural program that was established in 1979. The GMU is an educational program that provides senior dental students with a hands-on clinical experience using a comprehensive care philosophy for geriatric residents in nursing homes and the homebound. Approximately 60% of the senior dental students at the College of Dentistry participate in the GMU Program. The program currently provides service to ten nursing facilities within a 40-mile radius, including facilities in Iowa City, Coralville, Cedar Rapids, the Amanas, West Branch, Wellman and Kalona.

A 35-foot RV donated by the University of Iowa in 2001, which houses a radiograph processor, sterilizing equipment, a small prosthetic support lab, and storage space, is transported and parked outside the nursing facility. A Dodge Caravan donated by Oral-B Laboratories transports faculty, staff and students from the College of Dentistry to the nursing facilities. Inside the nursing facility, four complete portable dental operatories are temporarily set up, including 2 DNTL P-2000 dental units, 2 SEAC dental units, 3 portable chairs, a portable x-ray unit, and portable cabinetry for supplies. The GMU operates on a rotational schedule and usually remains at each facility for approximately six weeks or until all care for all residents is completed.

The GMU is designed to provide comprehensive care for all residents, including denture work, cleaning, extractions, crowns, fillings, and root canals. The GMU returns to each facility about every 18 months. A team consisting of four senior dental students, a dental assistant, a dental hygienist, and a specially trained faculty dentist from the College of Dentistry provides comprehensive oral health care. Students spend approximately 8 days in a five week extramural rotation providing direct oral health services. The students also provide in-service training to the staff of each nursing facility on various oral health care issues.

The GMU is one of the very few dental programs in the nation that regularly provides dental care to nursing home residents. The program was awarded the American Dental Association’s Geriatric Oral Health Care Award in 1998 and the University of Iowa Achievement Award from the Council on Disability Awareness in 2000.

Iowa Now Article:
"Senior smile patrol.  College of Dentistry's Geriatric Mobile Unit helps fill gaps in care."