1 The IU Fort Wayne School of Dentistry runs a dental clinic, which operates from the IUFW campus. What is the purpose of the clinic?

A: The clinic is designed to educate dental hygienists, dental assistants and dental lab technology students.

We have 15 dental chairs in our clinic, which are primarily used by dental hygiene students. These students see patients in the educational setting approximately four days a week. The dental assisting students use the clinic approximately one day a week, and they also use a simulation lab for a significant amount of their training. The dental lab technology students have two labs that they use to complete their training.

Overall, in all three programs, we have 96 students. The clinic provides valuable educational and training opportunities for students while also serving as a dental health resource for members of our community.

2 February was National Children’s Dental Health Month. Why is dental health important for children, and how does the clinic support children and families in the Fort Wayne community?

A: Dental health is a vital part of the development of a healthy child. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states: “Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning. Children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t.”

Further, other studies indicate that the overall health of a child can be negatively affected by dental disease. We see several families in our clinic and spend significant time educating not just the children but the parents as well on good oral health habits.

3 Is there a connection between good oral health and overall well-being?

A: There are multiple connections between oral health and overall health. The oral conditions can give us clues into systemic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease. Most importantly, oral inflammation creates inflammation throughout your body. Fighting off a dental infection like an abscessed tooth or periodontal disease drains the body’s immune system.

4 After 30 years in private practice, you accepted the role of director of the David A. Bleeke Dental Clinic at Indiana University Fort Wayne. What drew you to that role?

A: I enjoyed private practice dentistry and still get to practice in my office one a day a week. I have been lecturing for the IU Fort Wayne program for several years and really enjoyed being involved in the education of future dental professionals. Being around the students gave me inspiration and joy as they learn and grow.

My mother was a retired FWCS teacher, and my dad a retired United Methodist pastor. They instilled in me the need to help the next generation grow and develop into the people they wish to be.

My son was working at Neighborhood Health Clinic as a dentist, and he informed me he was ready to come into our office full time. This offer to become the dental director of the IU Fort Wayne clinic was offered to me about the same time, and I felt that I could have the best of both worlds – educating students and working in my practice.

5 You founded a nonprofit organization called Sonrisas Siempre with Dr. Tom Blake. What is your organization’s mission, and what type of work have you done?

A: This has been one of the most satisfying parts of my career.

Dr. Blake and I started this from a small idea. We talked maybe 17 years ago and decided we need to do a dental mission trip together, so we started Sonrisas Siempre and began planning trips to Comayagua, Honduras. We were fortunate to receive a great deal of help from friends in the area and dentists across the country. At one point, we took 32 team members to Honduras at one time.

We treat mostly children’s dental issues, working with a significant number of orphanages in the area. The COVID-19 pandemic hurt our program for a couple years, but we are back on track now. We just finished a trip at the beginning of February 2023.