The NYU College of Dentistry launched the Give Kids a Smile initiative together with the New York Public Advocate to provide free oral screenings to underserved kids across the five boroughs on Feb. 12.
This year, the Give Kids a Smile initiative kicked off at PS 254, a Queens elementary school where over 200 children from kindergarten through fifth grade were screened throughout the day on NYUCD’s Mobile Dental Van. The students also received a bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and oral healthcare information.
Constance Robinson-Turner, administrator of the Smiling Faces, Going Places Mobile Dental Care Program, said she recently began working with the public advocate and hoped it would improve the scope of their program.
“The month of February is Give Kids a Smile month and the dental van program has always participated in providing care,” Robinson-Turner said. “The public advocate’s office, in this particular instance, reached out to me asking if we could develop an initiative.”
NYUCD’s Mobile Dental Care Program has worked in conjunction with the American Dental Association on their nationwide “Give Kids a Smile” initiative for the past 12 years.
NYC Public Advocate Letitia James directed the initiative this year and plans to choose a public school in each borough where the NYUCD will provide free oral screenings to students during the month
“Unfortunately, too many children — particularly in low income communities — go without oral healthcare because it’s inaccessible and unaffordable,” James said. “Until 2009, every school in New York City had a dental clinic. When these clinics were discontinued, we did damage to our children’s health. This is why public-private partnerships like our Give Kids a Smile initiative are
Separate from the Give Kids a Smile initiative, NYUCD’s Mobile Dental Care Program has brought dental services, oral health care and educational programs to underserved areas in the five boroughs five days a week for the past 15 years.
Turner said the program seeks to offer support to children living in underprivileged communities.
“The concept of the program is to make oral healthcare accessible to children living in financially distressed and typically underserved communities,” Turner said. “We visit children in an educational setting, public elementary schools and daycare centers, providing comprehensive dental care.”
However, NYUCD’s Smiling Faces, Going Places Mobile Dental Care Program is in jeopardy of losing funding after June, according to Mark Wolff, professor and chair of cardiology and comprehensive care at NYUCD.
“For many, many years the van was funded by the New York City Council [and] they will be offering a request for a proposal for medical care and the van does not appear to be a part of that thought,” Wolff said. “There is no public support for the program. We are certainly positive that we are not going to be able to deliver free care in the same mechanism that we have at this