UB Dental receives $371,000 to expand mobile dental program in rural New York

Inside the mobile dental van.

State Sen. Catherine Young and Deana Hazen, a dental assistant in the School of Dental Medicine, speak with Mikayla Brady, a first grade student at Clinton V. Bush Elementary School, inside the UB mobile dental unit. Photo: Jason Chwirut. 

Rural Dentistry Pilot Project adds three counties, doubles access to care for children

Release Date: June 22, 2016

“We’ve been told by several school principals that there are children who would not receive dental care if not for our S-Miles To Go Program.”
Joseph Zambon, dean of the UB School of Dental Medicine

BUFFALO, N.Y. – With the support of State Sen. Catherine Young, R-57th District, the University at Buffalo S-Miles To Go Mobile Dental Program has received a nearly 50 percent increase in funding to continue expanding access to oral health care for underserved children in rural areas.

The additional funding will help the program expand care to Oswego, St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties, doubling the UB dental school’s reach and impact. The program also serves Alleghany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Livingston counties.

In collaboration with the Rural Dentistry Pilot Project, the UB program – now in its third year – will address barriers to health care that exist in rural settings, which include inadequate transportation, few sources of fluoridated water, a shortage of pediatric dentists and a lack of clinics that accept Medicaid.

“Having a program like this is a necessity for our region,” said Young. “Our rural areas face unique geographic concerns related to availability and access. Educating students and their parents about preventative care and dental treatments will have a positive impact on the oral health of youngsters throughout Chautauqua County, and all of the Southern Tier.”

Joseph Zambon, DDS, PhD, dean of the UB School of Dental Medicine, said, “We are grateful to Sen. Young for her support in helping us expand our S-Miles To Go Program.

“With her help, we’ve been able to serve more schools and more children. We’ve been told by several school principals that there are children who would not receive dental care if not for our S-Miles To Go Program.”

According to data gathered by the School of Dental Medicine, 63 percent of children treated on the mobile dental unit have untreated cavities, significantly higher than the cavity rates for third grade children statewide. Only a quarter of these children visited a dentist in the past year, compared to 83 percent statewide, and many had already experienced decay on their permanent molars.

The increase in funding from the state budget will allow the programs to purchase portable dental equipment that can be transported to schools, allowing dental hygienists to visit the sites and perform oral health screenings, cleanings, sealants and fluoride treatment.

Children who need fillings, extractions or crowns are treated on the mobile dental van, a 42-foot-long, state-of-the-art dental clinic outfitted with three dental chairs, an X-ray imaging machine and a sanitization center.

The mobile dental van serves as an opportunity to train dental students, as well as introduce them to the challenges facing patients in rural settings.

“By sending our students on the van, we expose them to a different community that can’t walk into this dental school and receive care,” said Stephen Abel, DDS, associate dean for student, community and professional initiatives. “Ideally, this will inspire our students to want to practice in these settings.”

To date, the mobile dental van has provided 38,000 patient visits and has served the oral health needs of local community for 15 years.

For more information on the S-Miles To Go Mobile Dental Program, visit https://dental.buffalo.edu/CommunityOutreach/MobileDentalVan.aspx.

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