Pima Community College’s new Dental Studies Center for Excellence has been impressing students and patients alike.

The center at Pima West Campus, 2202 W. Anklam Road, was completed recently with funds from the school’s Title V grant. The funding is given out by the U.S. Department of Education to increase educational opportunities for Hispanic students and other underrepresented populations. The Dental Studies Department received $3.25 million over five years to update curriculum and make other improvements.

Since the grant was awarded, the program has seen a 25 percent increase in enrollment. There are now 93 students enrolled in the dental hygiene, dental assisting and dental lab technology programs.

Construction of the new facility, which accounted for half the grant’s funds, was completed in the first four years of the grant, said Kathy Ben, a PCC department spokeswoman.

“Now we have a complete, finished, beautiful clinic,” Ben said.

The dental clinic is more than 7,000 square feet and has nearly double the amount of dental chairs, up from 13 in the old facility to 23 now. The expansion also added patient resources such as a reception area, said James Craig, dean of the school’s Division of Allied Health.

“Before we had no reception area at all, just a very old waiting room that didn’t seat very many people. Now we have a full-blown, state-of-the-art waiting room that looks like one of the best dental offices in town,” Craig said. “It really greets the patients in the way that they need to be greeted and it provides a great experience, for our students and patients as well.”

The clinic also added patient restrooms, a conference room, updated technology, additional grading stations, an X-ray viewing room, a larger sterilization area and a records viewing room for dental faculty.

Alicia Dunn, a second-year dental hygiene student, said the new clinic is more comparable to a professional dental office.

“The clinic is so much nicer, so much more functional. The efficiency of the clinic has really improved,” she said.

Open to the public, the clinic has already been seeing patients.

“I’ve had a lot of patients come in who have never been to the clinic before,” Dunn said. “They’re kind of amazed at how nice our clinic is. I think a lot of people have a stigma with clinics, that it’s either gonna be small or run-down because it’s such a reduced fee for service, it can’t be that nice.”

The final year of the grant will be spent redesigning the curriculum. One of the main goals is to allow students to more easily transfer between dental programs, Ben said.

“We wanted to make a guided pathway for our students to move from one program to another,” Ben said. “For example, some of the curriculum we looked at for dental assisting can now be used if they decide to go on and be a dental hygienist.”

“This is an opportunity to elevate the level and quality of instruction,” Craig said, “to have more interdisciplinary capabilities than we’ve ever had before.”