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Hunt School of Dental Medicine Working With Local Dentists for Early Diabetes Detection, Thanks to a Grant Partnership

Wednesday, 17 April 2024 09:00 AM


EL PASO, TX / ACCESSWIRE / April 17, 2024 / For El Paso residents, a visit to the dentist may involve a conversation about more than regular brushing and flossing, thanks to a Texas Tech Health El Paso program.

Diabetes screening during dental exam
Diabetes screening during dental exam
The high frequency of visits to the dentist's office makes it an ideal hub for voluntary risk screenings offered through the Diabetes and the Community Dentist program.

To enhance community health along the U.S.-Mexico border, some dentists in the El Paso region will offer diabetes screenings, thanks to the Diabetes and the Community Dentist program conducted by the Hunt School of Dental Medicine.

Prior to Diabetes Alert Day, on March 26, 2024, the program received a $166,990 grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to expand the screening program beyond the dental school to private dentistry practices.

Diabetes and the Community Dentist, led by associate professor Wilma Luquis-Aponte, D.M.D., Ph.D., and assistant professor Salma Elwazeer, B.D.S., M.D.S., M.P.H., is designed to prevent diabetes through early detection, education and resource referrals.

Due to the higher frequency of visits to dentists compared to physicians, dentists' offices are ideal hubs for voluntary diabetes risk screenings. Patients will complete a questionnaire to help identify their risk level. Those determined to be at risk will be offered free finger-prick blood screenings.

"We want to identify patients who are at risk of developing diabetes and connect them with resources to help them manage their condition," said Dr. Elwazeer, director of Interprofessional Education at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine.

Paul Ro, D.D.S., M.S., a part-time clinical faculty member at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, emphasized dentists will not be diagnosing diabetes, but instead identifying at-risk patients.

"Given many of our patients are predisposed to diabetes or are diabetic, it's important this program is expanded throughout our Borderplex community," said Dr. Ro, who runs his own practice. "We're telling patients if they're at risk and encouraging them to take steps to discuss the results with their primary care physician."

El Paso County is facing a serious diabetes crisis, with 13.9% of adults affected by the disease. This percentage is higher than both Texas and national averages. Around 94,000 El Pasoans have been diagnosed with the disease. Diabetes is also the fourth leading cause of death in adults over 75. In El Paso County, 32.2% of deaths are related to diabetes, higher than the national average of 21.2%.

The Hunt School of Dental Medicine also trains its students to screen for diabetes at the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic, thanks to a 2023 grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, a trusted partner of the dental school and the university.

Diabetes Alert Day is observed annually on the fourth Tuesday in March by the American Diabetes Association. It was created as a one-day "wake-up call" to raise awareness of diabetes and personal risk factors.

About Texas Tech Health El Paso

Texas Tech Health El Paso is the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border and serves 108 counties in West Texas that have been historically underserved. It's a designated Title V Hispanic-Serving Institution, preparing the next generation of health care heroes, 48% of whom identify as Hispanic and are often first-generation students.

Established as an independent university in 2013, Texas Tech Health El Paso is a proudly diverse and uniquely innovative destination for education and research.

With a mission of eliminating health care barriers and creating life-changing educational opportunities for Borderplex residents, Texas Tech Health El Paso has graduated over 2,400 doctors, nurses and researchers over the past decade, and will add dentists to its alumni beginning in 2025. For more information, visit

About the Hunt School of Dental Medicine

The Hunt School of Dental Medicine opened in 2021 and is the only dental school on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the first in Texas to open in more than 50 years. The school offers the most innovative curriculum in the country, preparing students for the future of dentistry with high-tech simulation and an advanced fabrication laboratory. A first for any dental school in the nation, students begin clinical training and patient interaction during their first semester. It's also the first and only dental school in the nation that requires Spanish language courses.

As upward of 75% of dental school graduates open practices near their dental schools, Hunt School of Dental Medicine graduates are expected to address the oral health care needs along the U.S.-Mexico border for generations to come. Since the opening of the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic in 2021, students and faculty have treated more than 3,500 patients, providing nearly 19,000 hours of clinical care to our Borderplex residents.

Contact Information

Marty Otero
Media Relations Specialist - National Media
[email protected]



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