The NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD) and Graham Windham, a local NYC-based foster care agency, have partnered to provide regular dental care to more than 650 children since spring of 2011.
The success of the program, Partners Against Caries (PAC), both for the participating foster children and the dental school students, may serve as a model for other dental schools’ outreach programs. PAC’s successes were outlined in an oral as well as a poster session at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans in October.
“The program has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for both the children and families in foster care, as well as for the NYUCD dental students,” says study author Elizabeth A. Best, professor in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry.
Poor dental and oral health can affect children’s growth, school performance, and attendance, and can contribute to physical and mental health problems. According to Healthy Foster Care America, approximately 35 percent of children and teens enter foster care with significant dental and oral health problems.
Low-income children, especially those in foster care, are less likely to receive regular dental care, and, as a result, face a greater risk of tooth decay. These children, as they grow older, are susceptible to a myriad of oral health related problems– from heart disease, diabetes, and oral cancer, to low self-esteem and depression.
Through PAC, the children, ages 18 months to 21 years, receive dental exams, cleanings, fluoride treatment, and family education at two foster care facilities, as well as transportation and referrals to NYUCD’s dental clinics for more complex care.
“We definitely think that other schools could benefit from a similar experience and curriculum,” says Best.