Global Health Nexus, Winter 2004

Speaker Miller and City Council Expand Dental Services for Needy Children

The New York City Council, led by Speaker Gifford Miller, has awarded a grant to NYU Dentistry to enable the Smiling Faces, Going Places mobile dental van program to provide additional care each week to needy youngsters throughout New York City. Since the Smiling Faces, Going Places van is out every weekday during school hours, the additional care is being provided after school on selected days. As a result, many more New York City youngsters are receiving comprehensive pediatric oral health care.

"Every child in this city should have access to proper dental care,” said Speaker Miller. “NYU’s mobile dental care program and others like it enable more and more children to access this critical care that otherwise would be out of reach.”

The need for dental care is especially acute among impoverished children, who have 60 percent more untreated cavities than their peers at higher socioeconomic levels. Since it was launched in early 2000, the van’s dental team has provided over 10,000 visits to more than 5,000 children in areas with limited access to oral health care. Youngsters receive oral health instruction, sealants, prophylaxis/fluoride treatments, radiographs, amalgam restorations, resin restorations, pulpotomies, crowns, space maintainers, extractions, and mouth guards.

Eighty percent of the children have no dental coverage and are treated free of charge. The children range in age from 2 to 14 and are primarily African American, Hispanic, Haitian, Russian, and Asian. In addition to providing care for needy youngsters, the Smiling Faces, Going Places van also serves as a mobile site for facilitated enrollment in Child Health Plus and the regular Medicaid program.

“Speaker Miller and the Council members are to be congratulated for recognizing that oral care is not just about teeth — it’s an important way to identify and treat malnutrition and other serious health problems, as well as to increase the self-esteem and confidence of youngsters who suffer from unattractive teeth and smiles,” said Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Dr. Francis V. Panno, who has oversight responsibility for the van program.