A.T. Still University of Health Sciences (ATSU) has been awarded a three-year grant from the St. Louis City Senior Fund in support of the University’s project, Improving Quality of Life: Oral Care for St. Louis Older Adults (OCOA). The project is an expansion of community outreach efforts conducted by faculty and dental students at ATSU’s Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-MOSDOH) in partnership with Affinia Healthcare and is designed to improve functional oral and overall health for St. Louis City residents, who are age 60 and over.

“Good oral health is one of the major contributors to older adults’ quality of life and is essential to good general health,” said Jamie Opsal, executive director of the St. Louis City Senior Fund. “Many older adults do not have dental insurance or the financial means to pay for dental care. We look forward to working with ATSU’s Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health, and other partners, to increase the number of St. Louis City older residents who can receive oral health care.”

Project directors are ATSU-MOSDOH’s Joan M. Davis, PhD, professor and director of research, special projects, & initiatives, and Patricia Inks, RDH, MS, assistant professor and director of dentistry in the community and integrated community service partnerships. The project expansion will allow for the provision of comprehensive dental treatment for more than 300 seniors over the three-year project period with the aim of improving success rates for patients returning to full, functional dentition and to continue oral maintenance/preventive care. A program manager has been hired to coordinate patient needs.

“ATSU-MOSDOH’s mission is to provide oral care for the underserved in St. Louis. We are excited and honored to have received this substantial grant that will enable us to help older adults achieve oral health while supporting good nutrition and improvement in their general health and emotional well-being,” Davis stated. “St. Louis City residents age 60 and over living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level and who have completed qualifying education and screenings, will be invited to enroll in OCOA to receive functional dental treatment and follow-up.”

Effective July 1, 2020, ATSU will receive more than $875,000 over a three-year period. Multi-year project goals to assist St. Louis patients age 60 and older include:

• Increase oral health knowledge within St. Louis residents by providing oral health education

• Provide oral health screenings to decrease incidence of unidentified oral cancer

• Increase the number of St. Louis residents with a dental home for oral health treatment and preventive care through expanded activities

• Increase the number of St. Louis residents receiving comprehensive dental care and oral maintenance/preventive care by reducing the financial barrier for OCOA participants

• Improve patient outcomes by providing patient navigation support for OCOA participants

• Conduct formative and summative assessments to support quality improvement and patient care.