Present and Future

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee to Donate $500,000 to Dentistry

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee to Donate $500,000 to Dentistry

Memphis, Tenn. (October 26, 2009) On October 29 at 2:30 p.m., the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation will donate $500,000 to the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry. The grant will be used to enhance the college's dental clinic, which provides more than 40,800 patient visits annually at about half the cost of private dentistry. The check presentation will take place on the fourth floor of the Dunn Dental Building, 875 Union Avenue.

Established in 1878, the UT College of Dentistry is the oldest dental school in the South and is part of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. With more than 7,000 graduates, the UT College of Dentistry has educated more than 75 percent of the dentists practicing in Tennessee. In addition, a significant portion of the dentists practicing in Arkansas are UT alumni since that state has no dental school. The college graduates approximately 90 dentists each year.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST), a more than 60-year-old health insurance provider that serves some 2 million Tennesseans, established its health foundation in 2003 to award grants for initiatives that improve health for the state's citizens. The $500,000 grant comes to the College of Dentistry at a time when the school is in dire need of building repairs and is in the midst of a $15 million capital campaign. The funds will be used to support the retention of experienced dental faculty as well as recruitment of dental students. The grant will also be applied to the Dunn Dental Building's fourth floor dental clinic to replace worn dental chairs that are more than 30 years old and purchase technologically advanced dental equipment.

"We welcome the opportunity to support the UT College of Dentistry," said Vicky Gregg, president and CEO for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. "Our research indicates that proper dental care is vital to overall good health. Through this grant, we are helping to enhance the supply of dental services to the citizens of Tennessee, and to ensure that they continue to receive high quality oral care."

In 2007, BCBST examined the prevalence of chronic health diseases and higher health costs among individuals who do not receive proper dental care. The study compared plan members in three categories:

  1. members with evidence of preventive dental care,
  2. members with no dental services, and
  3. members with evidence of periodontal (gum) treatment.

Study results confirmed increased instances of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, and hypertension among those without dental care, as well as higher health costs. Study data can be viewed at http://www.bcbst.com/about/news/reports-issues/blue-reports/2007/Healthy%20Mouth,%20Healthy%20Body%20(FV).pdf.

"We are grateful for this generous grant and will immediately put these funds to good use," said Timothy Hottel, DDS, MS, MBA, dean of the UT College of Dentistry. "Improving the physical condition of the dental clinic and outfitting it with state-of-the-art equipment are our top priorities. These funds will play a significant part in helping to sustain our college's tradition of grooming qualified, compassionate professionals."

He added, "Our dental students' performance on the National Board Dental Examination remains solid and should be touted. That's why upgrading our clinic facilities is so important. We know that enhancing our students' clinical experience will translate into more and better dentists for our region and increased access to advanced oral care."

The UT Dental Clinic is operated by third- and fourth-year dental students who are completing the clinical phase of their studies. They are closely supervised by experienced dental faculty, which augments their academic curriculum with practical, hands-on patient care. The UT dental building is named for Winfield C. Dunn, a former Tennessee governor and alumnus of the college, who will attend the check presentation.