Dental student treats a patient at the School of Dentistry.
Dental student treats a patient at the School of Dentistry.

Underserved Kentuckians living with HIV/ AIDS can continue to rely on comprehensive oral health care offered through the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, thanks to $2 million in federal funding.

The funding has been awarded to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Department for Public Health HIV/AIDS Services Branch, Ryan White Part B program and contracted to the UofL School of Dentistry.

UofL’s Community Based Dental Partnership Program (CBDPP), is one of only 12 Ryan White CBDPP federally-funded oral health programs in the United States, and the only one in Kentucky.

The two-year grant will allow for increased access to oral health care services for people living with HIV, while providing education and clinical training for dental care providers, especially those practicing in community-based settings.

Dental care is one of the most common unmet needs for people living with HIV/AIDS in Kentucky. These needs include fillings, crowns and bridges, dentures and more.  

“Patients who have issues with their teeth begin to limit the types of food they eat. This can result in malnourishment, which in turn affects the absorption of HIV medications. The end effect is a more compromised immune system,” said Catherine Binkley, DDS, MSPH, PhD, associate professor, Department of Surgical and Hospital Dentistry, and program director for the Ryan White CBDPP.

“Social interactions also can be negatively impacted by poor oral health. Patients with fractured or missing teeth all too often limit educational and career seeking opportunities, as well as withdraw from friends and group scenarios. Restoring teeth for patients in all these situations impacts their lives in major ways. We want to help our patients put their lives back together and become part of society by providing a new smile,” Binkley said.

The dental school first received funding from the Kentucky HIV/AIDS Branch Ryan White Part B program for a six-month pilot in January 2014. The purpose of this funding was to expand the reach of oral health services and create a statewide network for improving access to comprehensive oral health care and improved oral health outcomes for individuals living with HIV/AIDS enrolled in the Kentucky Ryan White Part B program.

Based on the success of the pilot program, the UofL School of Dentistry’s CBDPP was awarded a $1.2 million 2-year state contract in 2014-2016, and has now received $2 million for 2016-2018 to continue serving the oral health needs of Kentuckians living with HIV/AIDS. Last year, the UofL program performed more than 6,000 procedures for nearly 600 HIV/AIDS patients.