NYUCD, in collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, has become the first dental school in the nation to provide a comprehensive, hands-on program to train physicians in preventing Early Childhood Caries (ECC)—the number one chronic disease among US children. The initiative to train pediatricians to recognize and prevent ECC is being led by NYUCD's Office of Clinical Affairs, with a protocol developed by the Department of Pediatric Dentistry. Program sponsors include Premier Dental and Henry Schein Cares. The program is authorized by a New York State Legislature bill passed in September 2009 allowing Medicaid to reimburse medical practices for providing four fluoride varnish treatments annually for children under seven years of age.
With guidance and support from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, NYUCD put these principles into practice in January 2011, when 35 pediatricians, nurse practitioners (NPs), and nurses from throughout New York City attended an introductory networking event at NYUCD led by Dr. Cosmo V. DeSteno, associate dean for clinical affairs; Dr. Amr Moursi, associate professor and chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Neal Herman, clinical professor of pediatric dentistry; and Ms. Jill Fernandez, clinical associate professor of pediatric dentistry and director of pediatric dentistry outreach programs. The objective was to train these primary care providers in the importance —and ease—of long-term successful childhood caries management. The session focused on how to recognize ECC and on the technique for applying fluoride varnish, which was demonstrated on mannequins. Each participant left with a starter kit of fluoride varnish. The introductory session was followed by additional training programs in February and April.
According to Associate Dean DeSteno, "This program offers a wonderful opportunity both to expand access to dental care for underserved youngsters and to actively involve primary care providers in the oral health care of their Medicaid patients. Since most children, especially from low-income backgrounds, see their primary care provider much more frequently than they see their dentist (if they have one) in the first years of life, this program has the potential to eradicate a long-standing and previously intractable problem that afflicts the youngest members of our communities."
Future plans call for additional training sessions and for the creation of a website and an e-mail address for both practitioners and lay people.