Financial Impact of Community-Based Dental Education

Dental students are a financial advantage for the dental clinics of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Clinics benefited from services delivered by students up to $6,000 per five-day week, and non-FQHCs can use students to supplement shortages in dentists.

Community-based dental education (CDBE) is a partnership between community dental clinics and dental schools. For the partnership to be a success, both parties must benefit. Dental schools encountered financial problems in the 1990s when state governments reduced support for health professions education.

From this special issue of the Journal of Dental Education on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pipeline program, this chapter presents evidence that CBDE is in the financial interests of dental schools and community clinics. The author considers the effects of CBDE on the revenues of partner colleges and community clinics. The chapter analyzes the short-term and long-term impact of CBDE on dental school clinic finances. The short-term applies to schools that implement CBDE but do not restructure their clinical dental programs. For schools that reorganized—by shifting their resources to other areas when senior students leave for community rotations—the author presents long-term data.

Key Findings:

  • Several Pipeline schools reported that when seniors were assigned to community clinics, the remaining students gained productivity.
  • A study of the CBDE program at Boston University found that high-ranking students generated a 78 percent increase in revenue—through in-house clinical practice—after their return from community rotations.
  • At FQHCs, rotating dental students who see at least eight patients per day will generate net revenue gains.

This is the fourth chapter of a special issue on the Pipeline, Profession, and Practice: Community-Based Dental Education program. The author himself was integral to formation of CBDE partnerships through the California Endowment.