USC University of Southern California

Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC

Community Engagement

Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) Program

Students in the Ostrow School of Dentistry provide free services to more than 17,500 low-income individuals each year through the school’s Mobile Dental Clinic and numerous community health clinics throughout Southern California as well as at health fairs and other events. Students provide treatment and screening under faculty supervision. While service to disadvantaged community members is part of the school’s clinical training curriculum, Ostrow students also routinely volunteer for additional community service far above the school’s requirements.

Just a few of the community sites served include:

QueensCare + USC Mobile Dental Clinics

A partnership of the Ostrow School, QueensCare Foundation, and the Los Angeles Unified School District, this program provides comprehensive care to more than 1,400 children each year.

Mobile Dental Clinic

USC’s Mobile Dental Clinic program was launched in 1968 to serve patients with no resources for oral health care. It has since provided comprehensive dental treatment to more than 80,000 patients and has been a model for many other programs around the country. The Mobile Dental Clinic operates at 10 to 12 geographic sites throughout Central and Southern California each year, providing more than $1 million worth of care annually to underserved children, at no cost to their families.

USC + Union Rescue Mission Dental Clinic

The Ostrow School operates a community-based dental clinic on skid row in downtown Los Angeles at the Union Rescue Mission, where students, residents and faculty provide comprehensive dental services to 1,300 homeless patients each year. Patients who need specialty care are referred to the school’s specialty clinics on campus.

USC + JWCH Center for Community Health

The JWCH Center for Community Health in downtown Los Angeles serves the homeless on skid row, offering a wide range of medical, vision, and dental care. The Ostrow School designed and operates the dental clinic within the facility.

Hollenbeck Palms Home

The Hollenbeck Palms Home in Boyle Heights provides senior citizens with residential living, assisted living and skilled nursing services. The Ostrow School operates an on-site dental service, providing emergency dental care for residents and educational opportunities for Ostrow students. Follow-up and comprehensive care is provided at the school in the Special Patients Clinic through a transportation plan operated by Hollenbeck Palms Home on behalf of its residents.

Community Sites

A limited number of DDS students serve under Ostrow faculty in volunteer four- to six-week externships at a Community Health Center (CHC) or Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that provides care to the under-served in safety-net provider facilities. Students gain experience providing general dentistry treatment in a CHC/FQHC setting where dental services are integrated with other disciplines, including medicine, pharmacy, mental health, optometry, and nutrition. Patients at these clinics represent the spectrum of age ranges—from pediatric to geriatric—and dental needs. Since patients often receive Denti-Cal or other government aid, students learn about public insurance eligibility and procedure coverage. Locations include Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, and San Diego. Students participating at one of the remote locations live in temporary housing for the duration of the four- to six-week externship.

Early Head Start; Women, Infant, Child (WIC) Centers; Teeny Teeth Program

DDS students on a pediatrics rotation work at one of these programs, which focus on children’s oral health from age 0 to 5, utilizing the First Smiles Oral Health Education curriculum and practices. In all three programs, oral health screenings and oral health education are provided to children and their parents.


In collaboration with Ayuda Inc., student and faculty volunteers provide dental treatment using portable equipment one weekend a month to underserved children at elementary schools throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. Approximately 2,100 children per year benefit from this volunteer-only program. Volunteers from USC and around the country also travel to Central and South America twice a year during school breaks to educate and treat children and adults with oral health needs.

Health Fairs

Students volunteer at 24 community health fairs throughout the year, where they provide free oral screening exams, preventive care instructions, and educational materials. The school’s mobile dental vans and portable exam stations are often used to provide free screenings at these events.

Give Kids a Smile Day

Give Kids a Smile Day is a national children’s dental access day held each February during National Children’s Dental Health Month. As part of the all-volunteer program, Ostrow students provide oral health education, screening, prevention and comprehensive treatment to under-served children.

Affiliated Hospital Programs

DDS students have numerous opportunities to observe advanced care delivery in USC-affiliated hospitals including the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center, Department of Dentistry and Oral Surgery Outpatient Clinic, the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, and the Long Beach Veterans Administration Medical Center, Department of Dentistry.