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NYU College of Dentistry Receives United Hospital Fund Grant to Improve Seniors’ Access to Oral Health Care

Dr. Donna Shelley
The NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD) has received a one-year grant from the United Hospital Fund that will involve dental, dental hygiene, and nursing students and faculty in developing and assessing a collaborative oral healthcare referral model whose goal is to provide community dwelling, underserved older adults in New York City with better access to dental care.

According to the grant’s principal investigator, Dr. Donna E. Shelley, Clinical Associate Professor of Cariology & Comprehensive Care and Director of Interdisciplinary Research and Practice, “Our project will fill large gaps in our knowledge about the oral health needs of community dwelling older adults by screening over 300 adults over the age of 60 who either seek services from senior centers or live in Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities in Manhattan and Queens. Our ultimate goal is to create a seamless referral link between community settings serving older adults and dental healthcare settings in order to increase access to much needed dental care.”

Dental, dental hygiene, and nursing students will screen residents at each partnering site. The dental and dental hygiene students will conduct oral health assessments and the nursing students will take medical histories and interview the seniors to identify potential barriers to care, such as a lack of insurance and inadequate transportation to dental service delivery sites. As part of the project, NYUCD is collaborating with the New York State Dental Association to create a directory of dentists who will serve as a referral resource.

“The data we gather will enable us to estimate the prevalence of oral health problems in this population and the amount of uncompensated care needed to meet the seniors’ basic oral health needs. We expect to find large numbers of older adults without dental insurance because Medicare does not cover dental treatment. But this is only one of the many barriers that older adults face in trying to access dental care,” said Dr. Shelley. “We also intend to use the data to develop a referral model that could be replicated in the future on a larger scale citywide and to advocate for government funding to fill gaps in uncompensated care for seniors.”

Dr. Shelley’s co investigators include Dr. Stefanie Russell, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology & Health Promotion; Dr. Donna Clemmens, Assistant Professor of Nursing; and Dr. Theresa Montini, a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Cariology & Comprehensive Care.

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