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Expanding Dental Services for Children

In Columbia County in upstate New York, a significant number of children in kindergarten through sixth grade are at high risk for oral disease as a result of poverty, lack of dental insurance, lack of water fluoridation, cultural and environmental issues, diet, and limited oral hygiene education. Although a significant number of children in Columbia County are enrolled in Medicaid, only a limited number of private dentists within the county currently accept it, given low reimbursement rates.

With support from NYSHealth, New York University College of Dentistry (NYUCD) launched the Columbia County Oral Health Intervention Program. Based on a successful NYUCD pilot dental outreach model for children enrolled in Head Start, the program provides on-site dental services in grade schools throughout Columbia County. NYUCD dental hygiene students, pediatric residents, faculty, and staff have held quarterly dental clinics, offering care to more than 1,000 grade school students.

Community buy-in has strengthened the program; local dentists have worked with project staff to develop a referral system to ensure that children receive necessary follow-up care between the quarterly clinics. The local Healthcare Consortium, Community Partnership for Children’s Dental Health, Columbia Memorial Hospital, County Department of Health, and Office of the Mayor have also been helpful in spreading the word about the program.