NYU Dentistry Students Brought Dental Service to Children in Maine


Via dental.nyu.edu

The NYU College of Dentistry Global Student Outreach team providing emergency dental care to residents in Machias, Maine. The team has collaborated with the Washington County Children Program to provide free dental care in the county since 2009.

By Coco Wang, Deputy News Editor

The NYU College of Dentistry Global Student Outreach team sank its teeth into public service in a collaboration with the Washington County Children’s Program at the beginning of this month to provide comprehensive and emergency dental care to children and adults in Machias, according to an NYU administrator.

According to Program Administrator of Global Outreach Danielle Becker, NYUCD has provided free dental service in Washington County since the outreach program was initiated in mid-2009 with the help of Northeast Delta Dental.

Becker said 34 of the 36 members of the outreach team are from NYU, including administrators, faculty, dental hygiene students, dental students and post-graduate students in pediatric dentistry and endodontics.

“The grant funding we receive from Northeast Delta allows our program to be financially sustainable,” Becker said. “As does the billing for pediatric dental services.”

Becker said that the community in Machias faces great barriers in accessing dental care as many of the adults do not have dental insurance or the ability to pay for additional healthcare. She also said that the team also includes a third-year dental student and faculty member from Columbia University, and that Columbia is interested in initiating these types of outreach activities.

Pediatric Dentistry Resident Ross Wengrover is a leader of the outreach team. He said the team provides a variety of services such as cleanings, fluoride treatment, sealants, restorative treatment and extractions of primary teeth with poor prognoses.

“We have been providing these services to children for over nine years now,” Wengrover said. “It was extremely encouraging to see a lot less dental disease and more clean and healthy mouths than in past years.”

Wengrover said that as a resident, he finds it very fulfilling to teach NYU dental students proper behavior management techniques and clinical skills. He said that interacting with those in need is also a highlight of his job.

“I love being part of outreach teams to not only treat children in need, but to provide oral health education to both the children and their families and to help make a lasting impact on their lives,” Wengrover said.

Oral Health Coordinator for Washington County Teresa Alley said that she has worked with the NYUCD team since 2009 — she has been visiting schools throughout Washington County for the last 18 years and is in charge of taking care of around 200 children between NYUCD’s visits. Alley said the limited dental service can not meet the need of a large number of local residents.

There are ten dentists in Washington County in total, and two of them provide service for the two Passamaquoddy Indian tribes and don’t accept clients outside, so there is only eight,” Alley said. “We have a county as large as Connecticut with 33,000 people. The wait can be long.

Alley said there are two major barriers for local families to receive oral healthcare before NYUCD came before 2009.

“We don’t always have providers in the community health clinic,” Alley said. “People can wait as long as nine months for a dental appointment, so long that some providers don’t accept Medicaid or insurances. Also, we have many seasonal workers. Some people, like my husband who is a lobster fisherman, are not employed between seasons. So there is an income barrier for some households.”

However, Alley said there has been a significant improvement in the oral condition after NYUCD began a new treatment for the children. She said that in April 2016 when the NYUCD was helping, the team implemented a new treatment called silver diamine fluoride which helps to stop tooth decay.

“There were 47 children who received the treatment,” Alley said. “I was asked to place the same treatment in between the 47 children during the visit. It was replaced on October 2016 and January 2017. When the children came back for assessment, the decay rate plummeted. The tooth decay was arrested.”

Alley said that the NYUCD have been tracking some of the children. She said that tooth decay rate reduced in the first several years, and then didn’t change substantially. Last year, Alley said that the tooth decay rate was 37 percent, and this year the decay rate was at 24 percent. Alley said that the team is excited about the positive changes in the rate of decay.

Becker said that the significant progress in the children’s oral conditions motivates the team to continue the outreach.

We return to this community because it has become financially sustainable and the patients express their great need and appreciation for the dental services we provide,” Becker said. “As a result of the sustainable partnership with WCCP, the children’s oral health has improved significantly as has the overall perception of the importance of oral health.”

Email Coco Wang at [email protected]