Latest News | December 14, 2022

The Issue: Pediatric Oral Healthcare

Prioritizing Pediatric Oral Healthcare for Underserved New Yorkers

While it is too often overlooked, pediatric oral healthcare is vital to the health outcomes and academic success of New York’s youth. Tooth decay and other dental issues can lead to long-term complications. That is why the Foundation has committed three years’ worth of strategic grants to improve oral healthcare access for underserved New Yorkers.  Poor oral health among this population is associated with significant pain, inability to eat properly, delayed development, lost school time, inability to concentrate and overuse of emergency hospital rooms.

To continue learning about pathways to improve oral health outcomes and share the breadth of knowledge the Foundation has obtained over the years, our Managing Director for Strategy and Evaluation, Dennis Johnson, along with Program Officer, Jason Chang, attended New York’s Early Childhood Oral Health Summit. The two-part conference over the past month, led by The Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, brought over 150 leaders together to participate in roundtable presentations from community organizations and health practitioners. 

The presentations centered on a variety of topics that showcase how integrated oral healthcare needs and outcomes can be. From bringing behavioral health counseling to students with tooth decay to engaging with different cultures to improve oral healthcare access in immigrant communities, attendees discussed firsthand the urgency of oral healthcare and the state of pediatric care in New York. Following the initial roundtables, attendees returned for a second, policy-focused meeting aimed to encourage collaboration among stakeholders to improve oral health access and outcomes for New Yorkers.

Two of the Foundation’s grantees, University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine and New York University Langone Health, led roundtable conversations to demonstrate how their innovative programs are bringing quality dental care to vulnerable and underserved populations.

In Western New York, University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine utilized its grant to provide 100 days of onsite dental services to those in transitional housing at Buffalo City Mission, 3,000 dental visits to un- and underinsured students at 31 Head Start programs and elementary schools in the area, and partnered with a local Pediatrician’s practice to develop a medical/dental integration program. UB also recently launched a second Mobile Dental Clinic, a 40-foot long unit designed with state-of-the-art equipment staffed by the school’s staff, students, pediatric and general dentists. The unit strengthens the school’s commitment to meet and serve persons living in rural areas  and by focusing on the intellectual and developmental disabled community.

Family Health Centers NYU Langone provides comprehensive dental care in School Based Health clinics in partnership with Community Health Organizations at sites in Queens and the Rockaways. The program provides high-quality dental services at 42 school-based sites across NYC including 4 in Queens with a 5th scheduled to open next year. For many parents, leaving work to bring a child to dental appointments can be a major barrier to healthcare access and can negatively impact a child’s academic success as they miss class. Seeing the dentist, conveniently located in the child’s school, can prevent long-term health issues while improving self-esteem as an unhealthy mouth can affect how a person looks, speaks and is treated by the world.

In their presentations, both organizations discussed how bringing dental care to vulnerable populations is key to addressing other social determinants of health and improving health inequities overall. They also provided resources and key learnings for attendees at other organizations looking to start their own mobile dental programs. Not only are these organizations making an impact on their communities, but they’re using the lessons they’ve learned to help other organizations across New York.

To learn more about University of Buffalo’s Mobile Dental Units, visit their website here.

To learn more about NYU Langone’s school-based services, visit their website here.