At a Suffolk County Department of Health event in 2012, Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine professionals provided oral healthcare services to Riverhead schoolchildren.
STONY BROOK, NY, March 29, 2013 — Stony Brook University’s School of Dental Medicine (SDM) has launched a comprehensive School-Based Dental Health program through which it is providing free preventive oral healthcare services to all elementary school students in the Riverhead Central School District. In December, the Long Island Community Foundation (LICF) donated $25,000 to develop and build a sustainable dental care community outreach program targeting at-risk child populations across Long Island.
In Phase One of the project, which was completed in October, a dental team consisting of a pediatric dental faculty member, two pediatric dental residents, a dental hygienist and a dental assistant demonstrated dental hygiene techniques to more than 2,000 students in grades K–4. The team also discussed the importance of good nutrition, handed out goodie bags containing toothbrushes and toothpaste, and distributed dental education pamphlets. Students from grades 1-3 home received a letter addressed to parents that explained Stony Brook’s School-Based Dental Health program and included a health history/permission form for parental consent.
Phase Two of the program was initiated in November and ran through January. It included free oral health screenings, dental cleanings, fluoride treatment and sealants for first-year molars to all students who had parental permission in the school district’s four elementary schools. A dental summary report was sent home to parents that detailed the services provided and indicated whether additional treatment was needed.
The Third Phase of the program is for children who need additional or urgent dental care (such as treating cavities) but who do not have a dental care provider. The SDM can provide these services via the Mobile Dental Clinic on a fee-for-services basis. The Mobile Dental Clinic, which is fully equipped with three state-of-the-art dental operatories and is ADA-compliant, will provide these services at the Suffolk County Health Center in Riverhead one month after preventive services are performed. In addition, families without dental insurance will be provided with information on how to obtain it.
Children at any of the elementary schools in the Riverhead Central School District participating in the program are eligible for follow-up treatment.
“One of the goals of the School of Dental Medicine is to reach out to every child on Long Island who does not have access to dental healthcare services,” said Ray C. Williams, DMD, Dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “The School has a Mobile Dental Clinic and we provide care in a number of school-based programs, but there are still many children in need of our services. I am grateful for the support of the Long Island Community Foundation, which will increase our ability to bring dental care to more children in need.”
According to David Okorn, Executive Director of LICF, taking that extra step to ensure that Long Island’s underserved populations get the care they need is one of the reasons why the LICF donated $25,000 to Stony Brook.
“Pediatric dental care is vital, especially among the region’s uninsured and low-income populations,” said Okorn. “Having a dental program on site at elementary schools is an efficient way to educate children about oral hygiene and address urgent issues for those children with dental disease, and we’re excited to be partnering with Stony Brook University in this endeavor,” he said.
“This program is all about preventive care,” said Dr. Rhona Sherwin, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Pediatric Outreach for the Department of Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry at the SDM.
Dr. Sherwin, who supervises the dental team at the Riverhead schools, cited the importance of prevention in not just preserving teeth but improving the overall health of the child. “Some parents might say, ‘It’s only a baby tooth, why fix it?’ An infection can lead to other medical problems. So it is important we identify and treat caries to circumvent serious oral diseases.”
She explained how a small act, such as administering an oral exam or educating children about proper dental care, provides positive oral health habits that will last a lifetime.
Dr. Sherwin cited the high-profile, tragic case of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old boy from Prince George’s County, Maryland, who died six years ago after an infection from an untreated abscessed tooth spread to his brain. Although an extreme example, Deamonte’s case highlights the importance of access to oral healthcare. Equally crucial is education about access; specifically, letting those in the community know where and how they can receive services.
Carol Sloane, RDH, Assistant Dean of Allied Dental Education and Director of Clinical Operations at the SDM, said that Long Island’s underserved populations often don’t know that their school-age children are eligible for programs such as the one Stony Brook offers.
“When you have a program like this, it benefits the entire school district — from the children and parents to the teachers and school nurses,” she said.
The SDM also partners with the Suffolk County Dental Society to find local providers who can treat these children. “The goal of the project is to raise the awareness of the importance of oral health, decrease dental disparities and improve access to dental care,” said Sloane.
Agreements to offer the same services for students in several other school districts are pending.
Marie Smith, Director of Donor Relations and Communications for the LICF, said she is hoping the SDM program grows beyond the Riverhead Central School District.
“This would demonstrate that not only is it successful, but maybe other areas can get much needed help,” she said. “Having this program out there is a nice model for getting the uninsured and low-income populations the services they normally would not receive.”
About Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine
The primary mission of the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine is to educate caring and skilled dentists who are well prepared to enter private practice or enter graduate or specialty training programs. The School also serves the profession with its continuing education programs and promotes the mission of Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Medicine through collaborative efforts in teaching, research and service.
About the Long Island Community Foundation
The Long Island Community Foundation has been making grants to improve our region and helping donors with their philanthropy since 1978. We identify current and future community needs, strengthen the Island’s nonprofit sector, encourage philanthropy, and with our generous donors, build a permanent endowment to address these needs. We have made more than $130 million in grants from hundreds of funds established by individuals, families and businesses. LICF is a division of The New York Community Trust, one of the country’s oldest and largest community foundations.