The Department of Pediatric Dentistry’s new Bringing Smiles outreach program, under the direction of Clinical Associate Professor Jill B. Fernandez, now provides comprehensive oral health care in New York City Public Schools, a first for the department, whose outreach initiatives previously have focused on health education and preventive services.
The program’s first site, PS 130, located in the heart of Chinatown, has a 20-year relationship with NYU Dentistry. Of the nearly 1,000 students attending PS 130, approximately 40 percent have unmet dental needs — the impetus for the Department of Pediatric Dentistry to expand its services to better address their needs. The outreach team consists of predoctoral dental students, postgraduate pediatric dentistry students, a pediatric dental faculty member, a dental assistant, and an administrator.
Using portable equipment, the team provides preventive and restorative services, including sealants, restorations, and extractions. This program is also the first of the department’s outreaches to use AxiUm in the field, thanks to the help and cooperation of the College’s IT and AxiUm teams. The program visits PS 130 once a week for an entire school day. After all restorative care is completed, the program will provide recall care at appropriate intervals for all patients.
Bringing Smiles gives participating predoctoral students a hands-on opportunity to provide care in a school setting, while simultaneously gaining a unique perspective on how to implement and sustain community oral health programs.
By fall 2017, Bringing Smiles plans to expand to three additional schools that have shown interest, demonstrated high dental needs, and been approved by the New York State and New York City Departments of Health. “Once we begin service at the four schools,” says Professor Fernandez, “approximately 120 D4 dental students will benefit from this experience each academic year."