Ella Mediodia, age 3, of Hudson, New York, a town in Columbia County in upstate New York, saw a dentist once - but only for a quick check-up. "The nearest pediatric dentist is 60 miles away, and we don't have a car, so we've never been able to give Ella the kind of preventive care we'd like her to have," says Ella's mother, Ieva, expressing a common concern among the town's low-income families, who make up the majority of the 8,000 people living in Hudson, two hours outside of New York City.
NYUCD was invited by a local advocacy group, the Columbia Healthcare Consortium, to help put Head Start children and their families on the path to improved oral health. After successfully navigating New York State's many challenging requirements, on October 19, a 25-member team accompanied the Smiling Faces, Going Places mobile dental van to Hudson, carrying with them all the supplies and dental equipment needed to set up a temporary clinic at a local community center, where they remained for one week. On Sunday, the day of arrival, the team provided an oral hygiene education session for approximately 200 parents; the next day they began providing dental exams, prophylaxes, fluoride varnishes, sealants, and oral hygiene instruction to 190 children, ages 3 to 5, from nine Head Start programs in Columbia and nearby Greene County. More than half of the children needed extractions and restorations. In addition, emergency care was provided to nearly 200 siblings and adult family members.
The team, led by Dr. Stuart M. Hirsch, Associate Dean for International Programs and Development, included Sherwin Benlevi, Nausheen Ekram, Jennifer Frangos, Jennifer Hardesty, Brian Rooney, and Tatyana Vazemiller, all of the Class of 2009; Vincent Wong and Joseph Padula of the Dental Hygiene Program Class of 2009; pediatric dentistry residents Dr. Ryan Owaski, Dr. Jane Yu, Dr. Angela Lee, and Dr. Nicky Treesh; Dr. Amr Moursi, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Richard I. Vogel, Executive Vice Dean of NYUCD; Dr. Maurice Edwards, Clinical Assistant Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery; Ms. Jill Fernandez, Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Charlie Larsen, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatric Dentistry; Ms. Rachel Hill, Program Director, Office of International Programs and Development; and Ms. Lauren Meyers, Director of International Programs.
"Because the rates of tooth decay here are about double those we've seen in New York City children, Columbia County seemed a logical choice for our first outreach in New York State outside of the New York City metropolitan area," said Dr. Moursi, who attributed the high rate of decay primarily to an absence of fluoride in Columbia County's water supply.
"Since these children are so young, and tend to be apprehensive about dental treatment," added Dr. Moursi, "we treated only those with the more advanced cases of decay. For the rest of the children, whose decay is not yet serious, the fluoride varnishes we're providing will arrest the process of decay until they're older and less fearful of treatment."
NYUCD will conduct follow-up visits to reapply the varnishes approximately every three months for a year. "This plan roughly follows the model we created for the remote, underserved village of Kasigluk, Alaska, which we first visited on an outreach mission last February," said Dr. Hirsch.
"Kasigluk and Hudson have comparable rates of decay, and, in both places, we are returning to reapply fluoride varnishes with the goal of reducing decay rates by at least 50 percent in one year."
The outreach mission was cosponsored by the Columbia County Head Start program and Columbia Memorial Hospital. The Crosswinds at Hudson housing development provided its community center for the mission.