International Partners in Health
Dominican Outreach Aims to Reduce Tooth Decay in Children by One-Third

February 2009 marked NYUCD's 14th visit to the Dominican Republic and its first outreach to the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo since the program was founded 12 years ago. During the weeklong mission, a 31-member NYUCD outreach team provided more than 1,700 treatments to 720 adults and children, and inaugurated a program aimed at achieving a one-third reduction in children's tooth decay in one year.

The team set up a temporary clinic in a public school in an extremely underserved area of this tropical island nation of sparkling beaches, lush forests-and high rates of sugar consumption.

"More than two-thirds of the patients had tooth decay," said Dr. Stuart M. Hirsch, Associate Dean for International Programs & Development, and the mission's clinical director, "a sure sign of frequent snacking on refined carbohydrates."

To arrest the process of decay before it becomes severe, Dr. Hirsch and his team provided sealants and fluoride varnishes to 363 children ages 3 to 12, and partnered with the Dominican Ministry of Health and Dr. Adolfo Rodriguez, President of the Dominican Dental Society, to train students from local dental schools at Universidad Iberoamericana and Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo to reapply the varnishes every three months for one year. The goal is to reduce the rate of tooth decay by one-third by the time NYUCD sends its next outreach team to Santo Domingo in February 2010.

"This is a successful preventive model that we have used on other outreach missions-most recently in an underserved area in the upstate New York town of Hudson, where we have seen a significant decline in tooth decay rates since our first visit to the area in October 2008," said Dr. Hirsch.

In addition to being the team's first visit to the Dominican capital, the February 2009 mission marked the first time that faculty and residents from the Advanced Education Program in Endodontics made up part of the outreach team. The endodontists performed 65 root canal treatments and worked closely with DDS students, pediatric dentistry, and oral and maxillofacial surgery residents, and dentists from the Advanced Programs for International Dentists to coordinate restorative treatment. All told, the multidisciplinary team completed 479 restorations as well as 553 extractions. "Everyone worked with amazing efficiency," Dr. Jil Schaps, '09, recalls. "One 13-year-old girl arrived at the temporary clinic holding her hand over her mouth to hide embarrassing black spots on her teeth, and left with a broad smile after her two root canals and two composite restorations-which ordinarily involve several visits to a dentist-were completed in just four hours."

In addition to Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Schaps, the members of the outreach team included Dr. Miriam Robbins, Clinical Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology, & Medicine; Dr. Michael Ghalili, Clinical Associate Professor of Prosthodontics; Dr. Lily Lim, Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Heather Baumhardt, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Paul Rosenberg, Professor and Chair of the Quartararo Department of Endodontics; Dr. Amogh Velangi, Clinical Assistant Professor of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery; Mr. Michael Jackson, a sterilization technician; and Dr. Eugenia Mejia, Director of Admissions.

Also participating in the outreach were Dr. Joe DiBernardo, Advanced Education Program in Endodontics, '09; Dr. Karrim Thurman, Advanced Education Program in Endodontics '10; Dr. Shital Patel, Advanced Education Program in Pediatric Dentistry, '09; Dr. Kelly Kim, Advanced Education Program in Pediatric Dentistry, '10; Dr. Stephanie Winterer, Advanced Program in Pediatric Dentistry for International Dentists, '09; Dr. Perrine Balland and Dr. Miriam Molins, Advanced Program in Comprehensive Dentistry for International Dentists, 09; Ms. Sandra Cohen and Ms. Alicia Schraner, DDS '10; Ms. Rachel Hill, Program Administrator for the Office of International Programs and Development; and Class of 2009 DDS Program graduates Dr. Michael Bachman; Dr. Justin Ben Zvi, Dr. Benjamin Bush, Dr. Paul Chen, Dr. Thanh Do, Dr. Amy Hoch, Dr. Andrea Jordan, Dr. Jennifer Lo, Dr. Prospero Matos, Dr. Loan Nguyen, and Dr. Chris Verzosa.