March 21, 2019 Melissa Lamar

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Tunxis Community College dental hygiene students in the student chapter of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD) have started “Recruit a Smile” an ongoing service project to provide free oral care to Tunxis student veterans.

Tunxis veterans can receive free preventive dental care, cleaning, fluoride and X-rays from Tunxis dental hygiene students, funded through donations and delivered by Tunxis dental hygiene students at the college’s clinic at UConn Health. They are also referred to area dentists who will provide restorative care for free or at a reduced cost.

“This will provide a system of oral care to an overlooked population, especially for dental care,” said Robin Knowles, Tunxis dental hygiene professor and AAPHD chapter advisor, who added that only service members who are 100 percent disabled are eligible to receive dental care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Several TCC student veterans have already received free preventive dental care from Tunxis dental hygiene students in the AAPHD student chapter. Some of the 15 chapter members are shown with co-president Amber Humphrey (center).

As part of the project, Tunxis student Amber Humphrey, co-president of the chapter, wrote and submitted a grant proposal to undertake research and received $2,500 from the American Association of Public Health Dentistry. The grant will be used to collect data from the student veterans on their experiences and barriers in accessing dental care, and their level of oral health knowledge and value. Humphrey, who resides in Plainville, will be recognized for her role in the project at the National Oral Health Conference in Memphis in April.

The newly formed chapter at Tunxis is the only community college chapter currently, and includes 15 dental hygiene students. All student chapters participate in service, education and research.

Other chapter service projects since September have included educating more than 120 athletes at the Connecticut Special Olympics Winter Games in Windsor, and hosting a continuing education program that provided hygienists and students with information on delivering dental care to patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Five students will work this semester with psychiatric nurse practitioner Nancy Cabelus, DNP, to write a paper on treating dental patients with PTSD which will be submitted to a peer reviewed journal for publication.

The chapter is accepting donations for its “Recruit a Smile” project. Donations can be made online at by selecting “Recruit a Smile” under dental program donations. Checks can also be made payable to Tunxis Community College Foundation, with AAPHD chapter in the memo, and sent to TCC Foundation, 271 Scott Swamp Rd., Farmington, CT  06032.

Tunxis dental hygiene students have many opportunities to participate in community outreach projects on the local, national and international level, providing services to underserved populations including children, the elderly and those without dental insurance. The Tunxis dental hygiene program is unique in that students go to clinical sites in the community to treat a diverse range of patients rather than patients coming to campus. Accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, Tunxis is the only public college in the state to provide a degree in dental hygiene.

Located in Farmington, Tunxis Community College offers more than 70 associate degrees and certificates, providing critical thinking and problem-solving skills that prepare students for transfer to bachelor’s degree programs and employment in areas with industry need. The dental hygiene program has special admissions requirements and application deadlines. To learn about the program and upcoming information sessions, visit, call 860.773.1489, or email [email protected].