Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine Expands Access to Care for Schoolchildren Through Department of Health Grant

Dr. Sean Challenger of Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine Provides Care to a Pediatric Patient on the Mobile Dental ClinicA five-year grant from the New York State Department of Health has allowed for a recent expansion of oral healthcare services to additional school districts Long Island. 

September 2019 - Many underserved families on Long Island face barriers to healthcare, including an ongoing obstacle: a lack of adequate public transportation. As an integral part of its mission, Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine maintains a commitment to the expansion of access to care, particularly within Suffolk County, a region experiencing economic disparities among the greatest in the nation. Programs such as the Mobile Dental Clinic enable teams of dental students and professionals from the School to bring oral healthcare services directly to patients where they are, from homeless shelters to elementary schools.

Through the Mobile Dental Clinic and grant support awarded by the New York State Department of Health in 2017, the School of Dental Medicine’s pediatric dentistry services have continued to expand to reach a wider number of children within Suffolk County. In recent months, partnerships with local school districts have grown to include the Patchogue Medford School District, Longwood School District, and South Country School District, which are comprised of 13 elementary schools.
The School of Dental Medicine’s Mobile Dental Clinic, equipped with three dental operatories, radiographic units, and a complete set of support equipment, makes two visits per year to each elementary school. Services provided through the New York State Department of Health grant include preventive and sealant application to second and third-grade students. Sealants are particularly important in New York due to the lack of fluoride within local water supplies. Visits on the Mobile Dental Clinic also include an oral examination, a cleaning, and the application of fluoride varnish with each student receiving a summary report and an oral health goodie bag for home. 

Oral healthcare education also plays a vital role within the outreach provided to local school districts with one dedicated visit per year for first, second, and third-grade students. This component takes place within the classroom with Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine team members discussing the importance of diet and nutrition and reviewing proper brushing and flossing techniques. Puppets are used alongside plastic food samples to lead a conversation with the children about making healthy eating choices. 

“The awarding of this grant has allowed Stony Brook to effectively reach a continuously expanding number of children within underserved communities who would have otherwise had difficulty accessing care,” said Dr. Rhona Sherwin, Clinical Professor and Director of Pediatric Outreach. Dr. Sherwin worked in partnership with Carol Sloane, RDH, Assistant Director of Clinical Operations, to apply for and secure the New York State Department of Health grant. “The number of oral health community programs offered by the School of Dental Medicine and its providers has grown rapidly, and as a result of great community need, requests for additional community outreach programs are frequent.  We are proud that the development and implementation of these preventive projects have resulted in the improved oral health of local children.”