Community Health

Oral health outcomes vary dramatically among different communities in the United States, and many low-income, rural, and minority communities may struggle to access dental care. At HSDM, the Office of Global and Community Health connects students and faculty with community partners to improve oral health across the nation. The Office currently partners with multiple area community health centers, Health Care for All, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, and CareMore to pioneer new approaches to oral health. The Office also participates in health services research to explore best practices to improve community oral health access.

Current Community Health Projects and Programs

A.C.T.I.O.N. Program

Action for Children and Teens in Oral Health Need (A.C.T.I.O.N.) started at HSDM in 2009. It consists of a student volunteer-run pediatric dental clinic offered one Saturday per month at Windsor Clinic in Cambridge. Under the supervision of an attending dentist, 1st and 2nd year students assist 3rd and 4th year providers at the clinic. Since its inception, the A.C.T.I.O.N. Program has held over 30 clinic sessions, providing dental treatment to hundreds of pediatric patients totaling over 750 appointments. A.C.T.I.O.N. is one of the only clinical volunteer projects available to 1st and 2nd year students at HSDM. It is a great way to meet students from various years and to gain experience with pediatric patients. All three attending doctors are wonderful mentors and Saturdays mornings at the Windsor Clinic are always fun and rewarding.

Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Clinic

Harvard School of Dental Medicine faculty and students provide dental care for homeless adults in the Boston area.

The Oral Health Education Program at Boston Children’s Hospital

The Oral Health Education Program at Boston Children’s Hospital Primary Care Clinic (CHPCC-OHEP) educates primary care patients and their families on the importance of oral health. Volunteers teach children and their families in the CHPCC waiting room through activities and demonstrations using coloring materials, a giant mouth display, and other educational materials. There is a team of about ten dedicated first through third year dental student volunteers who visit the CHPCC approximately once per month. On Tuesdays at CHPCC, there is a clinic for teen mothers. Volunteers not only provide oral health education to the general outpatient population visiting the clinic, but our volunteers also provide oral health education to the teen mothers and their children.

Collaboration with Cambridge Health Alliance

HSDM has a project in collaboration with the Cambridge Health Alliance and Forsyth Institute to provide dental care for unaccompanied minors at Somerville High School. The dental services are now an integral part of the student health clinic at the high school. HSDM faculty and residents provide free care and help arrange free or low-cost specialty services.

Crimson Care Collaborative

Crimson Care Collaborative clinics were started by Harvard Medical School students in the fall of 2009. Clinics, staffed with interdisciplinary health professions students, provide fully integrated care for vulnerable communities. CCC at the Nashua Street Jail has fully integrated health and oral care delivery. A dental team, a medical team, a mental health services team, and a team offering training in substance use, oral care, and mindfulness operate in tandem. CCC at MGH-Chelsea has trained primary care providers in oral health competencies. Clinics expose health professions students to primary and public health care practice, and train future primary care providers in core oral health competencies.

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Explorations

Each fall, approximately 350 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students visit Harvard Medical School (HMS) for a one-day program from Boston and Cambridge middle schools for a morning of presentations and panel discussions about science careers. The students are then hosted by faculty and research associates for laboratory visits and first-hand exposure to scientific research and activities. Research associates represent 35 different laboratories including HSDM and HMS. This program exposes students to research laboratories, science career paths and discussions about the importance of academic preparation.

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Gear Up

GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. It is a new national initiative to encourage more young people to have high expectations, stay in school, study hard and take the right courses to go to college. Middle school and high school students from Lawrence, MA visit HSDM one or two times a year to learn about careers in dentistry, participate in a hands-on dental activity, and tour the School.

Give Kids a Smile

HSDM students participate in the annual Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) program sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA). The program encourages the enhancement of the oral health of large numbers of needy children. Since it was launched in 2003, more than five million underserved children in the U.S. have received free oral health services. HSDM Dental students work in collaboration with the ADA, the Offices of Dental Education and Clinical Affairs and the School’s Pedo program based at Boston Children’s Hospital. Each year the Harvard Dental Center Teaching Practices hosts an event in February spotlighting National Oral Health Month for Children. On average HSDM students and pedo faculty see 40 – 50 children at each event and provide dental exams, dental x-rays, dental cleanings and dental sealants for needy children who may not have access to oral health care.  

MEDscience Program

This program for high school students in the Boston area aims to increase students' interest, achievement, career intentions and success in health care and other STEM fields by engaging them in hands-on, problem-solving, team-building field experiences, coupled with an intensive program of theoretical and practical scientific knowledge. Students visit HSDM five to six times a year to learn about careers in dentistry, participate in hands-on dental activities, and tour the School. For more information on this program, click here.

Operation Mouthguard

Operation Mouthguard was founded over 10 years ago by HSDM students and provides oral health education, and custom-made mouthguards for children from low-income families, as well as high school sports teams in low-income areas of Boston. Third-year HSDM students teach children to become more aware of the causes of dental injuries during athletic activities. They also teach proper oral health and hygiene during oral health and education clinics. HSDM student volunteers fabricate mouthguards in the preclinical laboratory at the School, producing custom-made mouthguards. For more info, click here

Pathways into Dentistry Pipeline Program

HSDM’s offices of Diversity and Inclusion and Admissions partner with organizations such as the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, MEDscience (HMS), MGH/Revere Cares, Reactions in Action (HMS), National Student Leadership Conference, Seeds of Hope (HMS), and Indian Island School to bring young students who would not likely be exposed to career opportunities in dentistry to HSDM to introduce them to the field. Students who express an interest in dentistry can participate in further pipeline programming with job shadowing opportunities with local dentists. Additionally, while the young students are at HSDM, DMD students who are Diversity and Inclusion fellows teach them about oral health and oral hygiene practices that contribute to the prevention of oral disease. Students leave with knowledge about the field, information on the admissions process, and equipped with oral hygiene products (toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss). HSDM also piloted a new recruitment initiative in March of 2018 as part of the Pipeline Program. An HSDM Diversity and Inclusion spoke about dentistry and HSDM’s admissions process to students at historically Black institutions in Atlanta including Spelman College, Oakwood University and a historically Black high school.

Project Bridge

Project Bridge is a student-run free dental clinic at Bridge Over Troubled Water (BOTW), a shelter for runaway teens in downtown Boston. Under the supervision of a volunteer dentist, dental students from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and Tufts offer basic dental services such as exams, cleanings, basic restorative needs and oral health counseling. Through the Project Bridge Education component, we also offer health education sessions, which are given at the GED courses (offered by BOTW) during the day and also at the residential sites that are associated with BOTW. Project Bridge has been recognized by numerous organizations, including the White house, American Dental Association, American Dental Education Association and more.