Going to the dentist can be described as an uncomfortable experience for some. Others may even call it a source of anxiety. But for Jim Benedict, receiving dental treatment at VCU School of Dentistry has been very rewarding.

“It has been one of the more enjoyable healthcare experiences in my life,” said the 82-year-old.

The former businessman and educator has been a patient at VCU School of Dentistry for the last 10 years, despite living in Charlottesville.

While he could get dental care at any facility in the Charlottesville area, he has been very intentional about driving approximately one hour to receive treatment in downtown Richmond at VCU School of Dentistry. 

“The commute, and the expense of the commute are minimal in terms of the kind of the savings that I get and the expertise of the students and faculty at VCU School of Dentistry,” said Benedict.

The commute, and the expense of the commute are minimal in terms of the kind of the savings that I get and the expertise of the students and faculty at VCU School of Dentistry.

Jim Benedict

VCU School of Dentistry’s student dental practice provides affordable, high-quality dental care to the Richmond area and surrounding communities. It also provides VCU dental students unparalleled opportunities for learning and experience providing patient care.

Benedict says he was first introduced to VCU School of Dentistry through his periodontist and general dentist in Charlottesville after expressing some concerns about the cost of his treatment.

“I thought it was a great idea. I made the inquiries and I decided it would be less expensive because complicated dental procedures are very expensive at a private practice,” said Benedict. “I realized that I could probably have the same procedures done at a dental school and receive very professional care with the latest technology, equipment and resources. I also knew I was going to be seeing students who are at the highest quality due to the reputation of VCU School of Dentistry. It was a very easy decision to make. As the kids say, ‘It was a win-win!’”

Jim Benedict

During his time as a patient, Benedict says he has made more than a dozen visits and has been treated by several VCU School of Dentistry dental students, residents and supervising faculty members. 

“It has been a very pleasant experience,” said Benedict. “The students are exceptional, very professional and very courteous. They have really done a great job learning their craft. They were also very good at communicating with me. As a former educator, I’m always interested in learning and they gave me great feedback and explanations along the way.” 

VCU dental students transition from preclinical studies to clinical care in their third year of dental school. It’s an important transition as students shift their focus to clinical excellence as they receive hands-on education as integral team members of the fast-paced dental practice. 

For fourth-year dental student Amanda Tran, the first two years of dental school were demanding, filled with 40 credits a semester and endless exams. But those countless hours of learning the fundamentals and developing hand-skills on dental training manikins paid off once she started clinical care.

“Once I started seeing patients, like Mr. Benedict, all the challenges felt worthwhile and I remembered my purpose and reason for choosing dentistry,” said Tran. “Treating patients as a dental student, I have not only been able to take away pain, transform lives, and embrace a newfound confidence, but I have developed personal bonds and built meaningful relationships with patients, which have made my life more fulfilling.”

Jim Benedict being treated by fourth-year dental student Amanda Tran.

During his time as a VCU School of Dentistry patient, Benedict has received several treatments including assessments, an extraction, denture impressions and a denture placement. 

Most recently, Benedict got an extraction performed by former Advanced Education in Periodontics resident Nitya Reddy, D.D.S., (Class of 2022) and had his upper denture replaced by then fourth-year dental student Aaron Miller (Class of 2022) and faculty members John Unger, D.D.S., Michael Huband, D.D.S., and Charles Janus, D.D.S., from the Division of Prosthodontics in the Department of General Dentistry. 

At VCU School of Dentistry, each student is placed into a specific General Practice Group (GPG) and given “vertical buddies,” one a year above and another a year below. 

Upon Miller’s graduation in May 2022, Tran took over as Benedict’s primary student provider, following a unique system designed to provide continuity of care for patients. 

“When I entered the clinic as a third-year dental student, my fourth-year vertical buddy transferred a list of his patients to me who he thought would suit my skill level and clinical requirements. Once he graduated, I took over all of his patients and the transition was seamless because each patient had a treatment plan and notes so I could pick up where he left off,” said Tran. 

During a January 2023 appointment, Jim Benedict is treated by fourth-year dental student Amanda Tran and supervising faculty John Unger, D.D.S.

Now as a fourth-year dental student, Tran is often on clinical rotations and sometimes shares her patient with her vertical buddy so that they can both get their requirements completed, the patients can get the necessary treatments done faster, and her vertical buddy would already be familiar with the patients that they will take over when she graduates in May.

For Benedict, it’s been that continuity of care and attention to detail from students and faculty that has had a significant impact on him and made his care at VCU School of Dentistry unrivaled. 

“I am very pleased with my experience at VCU School of Dentistry and would gladly recommend it, especially for people of my age who may not have dental insurance or be in a position to pay for expensive dental care of a complex nature,” said Benedict. 

Having high-quality and affordable treatment for senior patients is something in which VCU School of Dentistry takes pride. As the largest provider of dental care to patients with Medicaid insurance in Virginia, VCU School of Dentistry strives to be at the forefront of digital dentistry technology, which plays a pivotal role in providing restorative services to an aging population. 

VCU School of Dentistry’s digital dentistry program is one of the largest in the nation and includes in-house manufacturing processes that reduce wait times and costs for patients in need of services such as dentures, bridges and same-day crowns. It also provides exceptional hands-on learning for students like Amanda Tran.

“When I entered dental school, I had a mission to make a difference and a goal to absorb as much knowledge as I could. I have been able to achieve this goal by learning from experienced faculty members about the ins and outs of general dentistry and a variety of different specialties,” said Tran. “I feel privileged to be able to collaborate with insightful attendings and colleagues to make a significant impact in many patients’ lives.”

Categories Schoolwide News