When Lise Gresock, 88, came to the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CU SDM), she was hesitant and nervous. For decades, she had not had a great experience going to the dentist. While Gresock liked her previous dentist, she wanted a more conservative treatment option. When she met the CU Dental team of Sarah Dirks, DDS, and Elena Ciobanu, DDS (ISP ’22), BDS, Gresock was immediately at ease.
“It’s an incredible team. I’m overwhelmed by the wonderful care I have received here,” shared Gresock. “My whole life, I’ve feared dentists. I was told my teeth were too big for my jaw at a young age. By the age of 20, my teeth fit after pulling some. One of my previous dentists wanted to put crowns on all my teeth. My dental treatments were very expensive, and it was during the war, so I decided against crowns and was passed off to another dentist.”
Gresock’s current dental treatment plan requires a complex coordination of care and communication with her primary care doctor and other specialists at the dental school. The team at CU Dental is accustomed to it in the Senior & Special Care Clinic (SSCC).
Senior & Special Care Clinic
“We focus on conservative treatment plans that align with each patient’s goals. Our team interacts with other health care professionals when needed to provide the most appropriate person-centered care," said Dirks. “We understand that it can be difficult to get to the dentist physically, so we try to maximize each appointment.”
The SSCC is now a joint clinic. The special care portion of the clinic began in the 1980s, while the senior clinic started in January 2023. Gresock was the first patient in the SSCC.
Vision for the Senior & Special Care Clinic
The school has always treated older adults, but now there’s an emphasis on having a dedicated, accessible clinical space for patients.
The vision for this particular clinic is to:
Offer mobile dental services to long-term care facilities;
Become a training site for future geriatric dental fellows; and
Provide collaborative research opportunities with referring geriatricians from the SSCC.
“We want to become the clinical, teaching and research center of excellence in geriatrics and special oral health care in the Rocky Mountain region,” said Bruce Dye, DDS, MPH, professor and chair in the Department of Community Dentistry and Population Health.
The SSCC team includes an esteemed group of oral health experts:
Ali Kessler, RDH;
Amy Schmidt, patient coordinator; and
“Patients can expect that our team has experience with overcoming the barriers to care that exist for older adults,” said Dirks.
Since the School of Dental Medicine is a learning environment, students also treat patients in the clinic under faculty supervision.
“Our goal is to provide students with a strong foundation on which to continue to build their skills in managing patients with complex needs,” shared Susan Somerset, DMD, Pharm D, MS.
It is something that the faculty members see as a benefit to the student-patient interaction.
“I love seeing students get inspired and excited when they realize that many of the barriers to care for older adults can be overcome,” Dirks said. “Older adults are often the best patients and are very grateful that our team will take the ‘extra measures’ necessary to provide care.”
Those “extra measures” are what Gresock noticed about the dental team after being a patient at the school for just six months. “It feels like you’re the only one. They care.”
Gresock, an avid seamstress, had an appointment in early January. She brought beautifully handsewn handbags for two dental providers to thank them for their attentive care.
She said the dental team has been instrumental in the short time she has been a patient at the school. Gresock expressed her gratitude to the team and was eager to start her treatment plan.
Information - Senior & Special Care Clinic
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a patient at the Senior & Special Care Clinic, please contact the school to make an appointment:
The Senior & Special Care Clinic provides our patients with affordable, high-quality oral health care.
We treat seniors who are 65 years and older and who also have other health concerns.
We also specialize in treating patients (16 years and older) with cognitive, developmental, medical and physical conditions that may limit their ability to receive routine dental care.