Thanks to a 50 percent increase in state funding, the University of Buffalo’s Smiles To Go mobile dental clinic will double access to care for underserved children in rural New York.
The $371,000 grant comes at a time when data shows 63 percent of children receiving treatment from the clinic have untreated tooth decay. Over the past year, only 25 percent of these pediatric patients visited a dentist, versus 83 percent of children across the state.
"Having a program like this is a necessity for our region," State Sen. Catherine Youth (R-57th District) said in a news release. "Our rural areas face unique geographic concerns related to availability and access."
The extra money will allow expansion to Oswego, St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties, and will allow the program to buy portable dental equipment hygienists can use for screenings, cleanings, sealants and fluoride treatments.
The 42-foot mobile clinic, containing three chairs, an X-ray machine and sanitation facilities, serves as a pathway for dental school students to learn about challenges facing rural patients, according to Dr. Stephen Abel, associate dean for student, community and professional initiatives.
"By sending our students on the van, we expose them to a different community that can't walk into this dental school and receive care," he said. "Ideally, this will inspire our students to want to practice in these settings."