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Speaker Miller and City Council Expand Dental Services for Needy Children

Dr. Michael C. Alfano, Dean of the NYU College of Dentistry, recently announced that the New York City Council, led by Speaker Gifford Miller, has authorized funding for NYU’s mobile dental care program, Smiling Faces, Going Places. The grant will enable the van program to provide additional care each week to needy youngsters throughout New York City.

Launched in early 2000, NYU’s Smiling Faces, Going Places dental van is the first dental facility on wheels to travel throughout New York City and beyond to treat children living in federally-designated health professional shortage areas. Each day the van travels to a public school, Head Start Program, community health center, or facility for the developmentally disabled to provide comprehensive preventive, educational, and primary health services intended to improve the oral health and overall well being of poor and low-income children.
“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. Last year the van’s dental team provided over 10,000 visits to more than 5,000 children in areas with limited access to oral health care. Youngsters received 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 had no dental coverage and were treated free of charge. The children ranged in age from 2 to 14 and were 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.

Since the Smiling Faces, Going Places van is out every weekday during school hours, the additional care made possible by funding from the New York City Council will be provided after school on selected days. As a result, many more youngsters will receive comprehensive pediatric oral health care.

“We express profound gratitude to New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and the New York City Council for sending a clear message that helping to improve the oral health and well-being of underserved New York City youngsters is a priority,” said Dean Alfano. “Speaker Miller and the Councilmembers 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. And because the van is staffed in part by minority New Yorkers, children who visit the van are exposed to great role models for health professions careers.”

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