Longstanding partnership brings
OU Delta Dental clinic to Tulsa

Dr. Rieger Wood (left), director of clinical operations for the OU College of Dentistry, Tulsa, and John Gladden, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Oklahoma, tour the partially completed clinic. Photo by Jacobi Campbell

An architectural rendering of the new OU College of Dentistry Delta Dental of Oklahoma Comprehensive Care Clinic.

For two decades, the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry and the state’s top dental benefits provider have collaborated to improve dental health and education. Now, a major gift from Delta Dental of Oklahoma and the Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation will bring that partnership to patients in northeastern Oklahoma.

A $2 million commitment to the OU Foundation will help fund the new OU College of Dentistry Delta Dental of Oklahoma Comprehensive Care Clinic, a 5,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility opening this summer on the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Center campus.

With this gift, Delta Dental of Oklahoma, or DDOK, and its foundation have given more than $8.1 million to the OU College of Dentistry over the past 20 years.

“As the state’s only not-for-profit dental benefits provider, our mission is to improve the oral health of all Oklahomans,” said John Gladden, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Oklahoma. “The OU College of Dentistry is an invaluable partner in helping us to fulfill this mission.”

“Our efforts align seamlessly with the OU College of Dentistry,” added Terrisa Singleton, director of the Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation. “We are excited to see the Delta Dental of Oklahoma Comprehensive Care Clinic improve access to quality dental care for generations to come.”

Nearly one quarter of the 285,000 patients seen in the past five years at OU College of Dentistry clinics in Oklahoma City have traveled from the northeastern part of the state.

“Oklahoma ranks toward the bottom of states in providing accessible, affordable oral health care for its population,” said Paul Mullasseril, D.D.S., dean of the OU College of Dentistry. “That’s an issue because oral health is related to overall health. There are connections between periodontal disease, heart disease and other systemic health problems.”

Similar to the comprehensive care clinics at the college’s Oklahoma City location, the new Delta Dental of Oklahoma Comprehensive Care Clinic will provide deeply discounted services based on a sliding scale and free services, Mullasseril said. He explained that roughly 40 percent of patients seen at the clinic are unable to pay.

DDOK has donated more than $1.3 million to help cover such care with gifts to the OU Foundation, he said.

DDOK also has provided $1 million in scholarships to OU College of Dentistry students, as well as significant support for the college’s Community-Based Dentistry Externship, which provides hands-on dental care to underserved communities throughout the state. DDOK has funded more than $230,000 in student research and underwrites the college’s annual Scientific Day event.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, DDOK has provided more than $100,000 in emergency-care grant funding to bridge the gap between closed dental clinics and patients in need. The foundation also supplied the college with $100,000 in grants for PPE.

“Delta Dental of Oklahoma and its foundation have a wide-ranging influence on what the OU College of Dentistry is able to do, both in terms of patient care and education,” Mullasseril asserted. “We are very grateful for their support.

“A close partnership between public and private institutions is critical in making sure that the people of Oklahoma get the dental care they need. When organizations work together, the effect is multiplied many times,” he said.