At its regular business meeting, the Orange County Board of Commissioners opted to renew an agreement that places UNC School of Dentistry students in Carrboro, Hillsborough and Chapel Hill health departments.
The county annually contracts with the dental school to help staff the clinics at a cost of $42,585, which comes out of the Orange County Health Department's annual budget.
Instead of directly benefiting the dental school, part of the county's annual funding goes straight to the pockets of the UNC students stationed at the various health departments for their services.
The partnership began 23 years ago with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The first students involved in this endeavor did not see patients until Feb. 28, 1980, two years after the grant was enacted.
The grant funded the project until the health department took the helm as the primary sponsor almost 10 years later.
Dental students involved in the program conduct annual state-mandated screenings in all county elementary schools to check for tooth decay.
The screenings target children enrolled in kindergarten, second, fourth and fifth grades -- students who otherwise might not routinely see a dentist.
Eugene Sandler, a professor at the UNC School of Dental Ecology, said the program benefits UNC students in addition to county residents because it gives students hands-on career experience.
"It's a win-win situation," Sandler said. "We have a very symbiotic relationship."