USC University of Southern California

Community Oral Health Clinics

The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC has strategically established clinics at a number of locations throughout Los Angeles. By partnering with existing facilities for already providing services to the the homeless, elderly and medically compromised, Ostrow makes comprehensive oral health care attainable for individuals who would otherwise lack the financial means or whose medical conditions might make it difficult to receive treatment.

These clinics remove not only financial and geographical impediments to oral health, but also provide care that takes into account the individual’s overall health and circumstance.

Established Outreach Clinics:

Special Patients Clinics

One of the biggest obstacles to care can be physical or mental disabilities. Often patients who are medically compromised, elderly or physically and emotionally disabled are not able to receive care in a typical dental clinic.

To better serve this population, the Ostrow School opened the Special Patients Clinic in 1985. In this clinic’s operatories patients are provided care based on their specific needs.

Our faculty members, who have years of experience working with compromised patients, supervise dental students and residents in rendering appropriate and comprehensive care.
Patients who experience extreme anxiety or emotional distress during dental treatment also have the option for IV sedation administered by a specialist in one of three surgical suites.

Please contact Irene Reyna at for more information or about contributing volunteer hours.

More on the Web:
National Institutes of Health Special Care Resources

USC Dental Clinic at Union Rescue Mission

When finding food and shelter are immediate concerns, an individual’s oral health needs can quickly become an afterthought. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ravaged teeth of homeless residents of downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row. To bring emergency and comprehensive dental services to this vulnerable population—including increasing numbers of women and children—the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC partnered with Union Rescue Mission, a non-profit shelter for the homeless and indigent.

Opened in 2000, when there weren’t any comprehensive dental services in Skid Row, our USC–URM Dental Clinic now has eight dental chairs dedicated solely to restoring the oral health and smiles of the Skid Row residents. The services provided are free and are delivered by Ostrow students and residents under the supervision of expert faculty. Referrals for care come from nearly 30 different homeless shelters, social service agencies and community clinics.

More than 1,100 patients are treated annually by dental and dental hygiene students under the supervision of our staff and volunteer dentists. We provide emergency care to all, and during the current economic climate, we have been providing more emergency services than ever before. Comprehensive care is provided to participants referred from substance abuse recovery and job training programs. It includes endodontic care (root canals) to save teeth when possible. Additionally, almost one of four patients received partial or full dentures, a service not provided in any other “safety-net” dental clinic.

In the past decade, we have provided community education and oral health care kits to nearly 200,000 individuals. We’ve provided direct treatment to more than 10,000 patients, improving their health, enhancing their lives and increasing their employability, in a project nickamed “Hired, Not Homeless.” Moreover, we have exposed more than 1,000 students to the positive aspects of service-learning, community practice and professional philanthropy.

The annual budget for the clinic has grown with the increasing demand for our services, most recently reaching an annual amount of more than $650,000. It’s a good investment considering the total value of procedures each year is more than $2 million. We are always seeking additional funding sources from public, private and philanthropic sources. Both USC and URM provide in-kind support for our clinic, and we receive contributions from a number of foundations and companies. We now also receive a federal “Health Care for the Homeless” grant for nearly half of our operating budget.

With the increased need for our services, we welcome you to join our efforts in continuing to provide care to this special population. Please contact Santosh Sundaresan, Section Chair, Community Health Programs, for information on how you can participate at

More on the Web:
Union Rescue Mission
QueensCare Foundation
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

USC+JWCH Center for Community Health

On January 22, 2010, in an effort to reduce the oral health disparities that run rampant on Skid Row in downtown, Los Angeles, the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at USC joined in collaboration with John Wesley Community Health Center.

The USC+JWCH took on a challenge of venturing into a population in Southern California lacking access to oral health care; this population consists of the homeless and recovering substance abusers. This venture is the Ostrow School of Dentistry’s second USC dental community clinic located on Skid Row, after the opening of the Union Rescue Mission (URM) in 2000. The collaboration to expand to two dental clinics ascended from the demanding need for comprehensive dental care in this community. The unfortunate fact is that Los Angeles has a higher rate of homelessness than most other U.S. cities and counties. The homeless population that comprise downtown Los Angeles face a magnitude of obstacles aside from lack of access to affordable dental care, which results in increased dental health conditions consisting of extensive decay, infections and constant dental-related pain. The majority of patients treated at the JWCH/USC clinic suffer from HIV, Hepatitis, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or a combination of several other medical and mental illnesses.

The USC+JWCH Community Health Clinic commenced after two years of hard work, dedication and diligence of Dr. Roseann Mulligan, the Division Chair of Dental Public Health & Pediatric Dentistry and Neil Nathason, Associate Professor & previous Chairman of the Section of Community Dentistry. Their combined efforts involved attending numerous meetings, developing funding strategies and working with contractors and suppliers. Under the supervision of the founding director, Dr. Santosh Sundaresan, the current Chair of the Section of Community Health Programs, the clinic started providing care only one day per week and transitioned to two days in January 2012. On June 19, 2012, the clinic evolved into providing care four days per week. The services consist of prophylaxis, extractions, restorative fillings, root canal therapy and fabrication of partial and complete dentures. All the services provided are free and delivered by Ostrow students and residents, under the supervision of expert faculty. Moreover, dental and hygiene students experience the positive aspect of service learning, community practice and professional philanthropy.

In 2013, the USC+JWCH dental clinic has enhanced the lives of our patients by providing direct treatment to more than 1,200 patients, out of which, 500 were HIV-positive and the remaining were undocumented immigrants and/or uninsured. A total of $400,000 worth of dental treatment was rendered in the fiscal budget of 2012-2013.

By altering the perception that treating patients with special needs is difficult and should be avoided, the Ostrow dental and hygiene students are able to work as a team in providing quality care and closing the oral health disparity gap that exists in skid row. According to the surgeon general’s report on Oral Health in America, published in 2000, the frail elderly, patients who have special needs or are medically compromised, homeless people, young children, poor people and patients in racial/ethnic minority groups face considerable barriers in accessing dental care and have poorer oral health than the rest of the population. With continued support, diligence and dedication from the students, and faculty expertise, our goal is to surpass the 2013 statistics of treated patients and expand the range of services we provide.

More on the web:
JWCH Center for Community Health

Hollenbeck Palms

An often overlooked and chronically underserved segment of American society is the elderly. Currently, there are 3.3 million Americans over the age of 65. By 2030, it is estimated that more than 20 percent of the population will be elderly.

Since 2001, the Ostrow School has provided care for the elderly at Hollenbeck Palms, a non-profit retirement community in Boyle Heights, Calif. Under the supervision of experienced faculty, our doctoral dental and dental hygiene students provide care specifically tailored to the oral health needs of Hollenbeck residents.

This service-learning experience, coupled with additional clinic rotations in our Special Patients Clinic, is preparing the next generation of oral health professionals to address this growing population.

Please contact Irene Reyna at for more information or about contributing volunteer hours.

More on the Web:
Hollenbeck Palms

Magnolia Place

St. John’s Well Child and Family Center is a non-profit organization that operates a network of federally qualified community and school-based health centers at five stand-alone sites in densely populated urban neighborhoods in Downtown Los Angeles, South Los Angeles and Northeast Los Angeles.

Founded more than 40 years ago, St. John’s has grown from a small, voluntary pediatric clinic to a significant safety net provider in Los Angeles County, serving uninsured, underserved and economically disadvantaged communities.

At Magnolia Place, the Ostrow School’s fourth-year dental students gain experience providing general dentistry treatment in an urban integrated health system, which includes medical, mental health, pharmacy and nutrition services. Partnering with St. John’s provides community dental care experience as part of the School’s Community Health Programs’ effort to increase student’s understanding of, and willingness to work in, underserved community settings and safety net provider facilities.

More on the Web:
St. John’s Well Child and Family Center

Community Health Centers of the Central Coast

The first CHCCC clinic began operating in 1977, providing comprehensive dental procedures, including specialty treatment, post-operative care as well as any necessary follow-up medical care.

Patients at CHCCC clinics represent the entire age range from pediatrics to geriatrics and reflect diverse cultural and language backgrounds. They have a wide spectrum of dental needs.

Select students rotate to CHCCC on an individual and voluntary basis and reside in this Central California rural region from four to six weeks. During this rotation, Ostrow fourth-year dental students gain experience providing general dentistry treatment in a rural community and an integrated health system environment—a Federally Qualified Health Center—with other services including: medical, mental health, pharmacy, optometry and nutrition.

More on the Web:
Community Health Centers of the Central Coast

La Maestra Community Health Centers

For more than 20 years, La Maestra Community Health Centers have been providing culturally and linguistically competent prevention, treatment, chronic disease management and essential support services to nearly 150,000 men, women and children in San Diego’s most culturally diverse and lowest income communities. La Maestra accomplishes these goals with six primary care medical clinic sites, five dental clinics, mental/behavioral health clinics and optometry clinic, including school-based medical and dental clinics.

Select students rotate to La Maestra clinics on an individual and voluntary basis and reside in the San Diego area from four to six weeks. During this rotation, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC fourth-year dental students gain experience providing general dentistry treatment in an integrated health system environment—a Federally Qualified Health Center— with other services including medical, mental health, pharmacy, optometry and nutrition.

More on the web:
La Maestra Community Health Centers