Rochester's School-Based Dental Program Receives National Recognition

July 24, 2000

The University of Rochester Eastman Dental Center's collaborative school-based dental program was recognized at the recent Surgeon General's Conference on Children and Oral Health as one of the five "success stories" on community collaboration and dental health in the United States.

Federal studies indicate that about 80 percent of children who are eligible under Medicaid for dental services never receive them. Dr. Buddhi Shrestha, director of the dental center's Community Outreach Program, addressed this issue during his presentation at the conference. He spoke of the efforts brought about by the Rochester coalition that met the issue of the underserved child population by bringing dental services to the children in schools--where they are most often found.

Dr. Shrestha was instrumental in forming the collaboration in 1994. The partnership includes the University of Rochester Eastman Dental Center, Rochester City School District, Monroe County Health Department, the NYS Bureau of Dental Health, the Rochester Primary Care Network, a number of rural school districts, and the county health and social service departments from Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties.

While other school-based programs screen students and at most apply sealants, the Rochester-approach involves bringing oral health treatment to the school site. The services, targeted at Medicaid-eligible students who have no dentists of their own, are provided using on-site portable dental units, year-round satellite clinics near the schools, and Smilemobiles-movable clinics that travel from site to site.

Dr. Shrestha reported that the collaboration has been highly successful. The program served 2,200 students at 11 service sites in 1994. He said, "Our goal is to increase that number so that over 10,000 children will be seen at the 37 sites during the upcoming school year."

Rochester's School-Based Dental Program Receives National Recognition

Dr. Shrestha also noted that a recent surveillance study was done that involved a random sample of over 1,600 seven- to 12-year-olds from 36 Rochester elementary schools. The results showed that children in schools served by the Smilemobile program had better oral health than those without access to dental programs.

"Our experience and data strongly suggest that a well-planned, collaborative, school-based dental program is the best way to reduce dental access disparity and to enhance utilization of oral health care for the difficult-to-reach child populations," Shrestha added.

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