UT Dentistry students lend a hand at Healing Hands Health Center during the pandemic

“We are nonstop hands on and we at the end of the day, we’re making a better smile,” said Heath Phillips, a fourth-year University of Tennessee dental student.

Phillips and other students are serving dental patients at Healing Hands Health Center. The clinic provides care to individuals without insurance.

Student supervisor doctor Rebecca Nunley says the program benefits everyone: “It’s very mutually beneficial because the students need to see the patients and these patients need dental care.”

But working and learning during a pandemic is challenging.

“We’re going home with bruises on our noses, I’m sure you can see wrinkles that are all over us,” Phillips said. “But you know, it’s doing what we have to to keep ourselves protected and to provide an environment that’s safe for us say for the instructor and safe for the patient.”

He said he’s more worried about the patients safety than his own. 

“But I feel like with everything that we’re doing, we’re putting all the barriers in place to keep everyone safe, including ourselves,” Phillips said.

The students are wearing an N-95 mask, a cover mask, and a face shield. Additionally, the patients are using a suction device that helps reduce aerosols.

“We don’t cut any corners at Healing Hands here in Bristol, this is top notch equipment procedures I think you’d be hard pressed to find a clinic in the area that’s doing more than we are,” Nunley said.

Residents without insurance in need of dental or other medical care can go to Healing Hands Health Center’s website and apply to be patients.

Nunley said the clinic is always happy to welcome new patients.