By NICOLE GUGINO
OBSERVER Staff Writer
The University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine has received a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant for $500,000 to replace its 14-year-old Mobile Dental Unit (MDU) - which gives the children of Chautauqua County access to oral care.
A grant has enabled UB’s dental van to continue providing dental care to thousands of students at Chautauqua County schools.
The grant is intended to support and invest in school-based, health-center capital programs like the UB MDU. The UB dental van, and the services it provides, is one of 278 school-based programs across the country to be awarded funds to help clinics expand and provide more health care services to the underserved nationwide through the Affordable Care Act.
Every year for the last 14 years, the UB School of Dental Medicine has served the oral health needs of Chautauqua County's children through its school-based mobile dental van, which is staffed by three UB pediatric dentists, a dental hygienist and a dental assistant.
With the grant, the UB dental school will purchase a larger, state-of-the-art MDU equipped with three to four dental chairs to replace its current two-chair van.
This will double the MDU's capacity to treat patients and enable the UB dental school to provide more help to families that have limited access to dental care.
UB's MDU dental staff have provided care during 38,000 patient visits since 1997.
"I'm excited our kids will still have the benefits of this service," Brocton Central School Superintendent John Hertlein said. "It is a much needed service in our area with no dental office in the village and many people who don't have dental insurance. It's definitely a plus for dental hygiene in our area."
Hertlein said the UB dental van helps more than 100 students at Brocton schools receive dental care they would otherwise not get.
Superintendent of Dunkirk City Schools Gary Cerne echoed Hertlein's excitement for the program.
"We are thrilled they help our kids that would otherwise not have the opportunity to see a dentist. We see it as a real necessity for our children," Cerne said in a phone interview.
The grant's principal investigator Joseph Bernat, DDS, UB associate dean and chair of pediatric and community dentistry, said oral health is important to the physical well being of children. UB's MDU provides much needed services.
"We know that dental problems are health problems that affect children's performance in the classroom. Because of this grant, we will be able to continue to provide dental care to kids in need, which will improve their overall health and quality of life," said Bernat.
The new MDU van will be about 45 feet long and will have approximately 600 square feet of clinical space specific to dentistry, including a sterilization center, a patient waiting/intake/education area and a panoramic x-ray facility.
The dental operatories or procedure areas will be equipped with the computer hardware to access electronic oral health records resulting in improvements in security, compliance, quality and efficiency of care.
The van will also feature both a stair entry and powered chair lift, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It will take about one year to design and build the van to the necessary specifications.
James Harris, the UB dental school's chief financial officer, said the grant process was very competitive. With the new MDU's increased capacity, he noted, the dental school will be able to see more children in Chautauqua County and possibly add pilot programs in other counties.
"We have been working with the Westminster Foundation on a possible partnership to bring dental care to their Promise Neighborhoods in Buffalo," Harris said. "The Westminster Foundation is a local group of business, education and community experts, funded by M&T Bank, dedicated to improve education and end poverty."
The dental school will continue to seek operational funding for administrative costs and staffing to operate the MDU, he added.
Michael Glick, DMD, dean and professor in the UB School of Dental Medicine, said the grant complements the dental school's pursuit of excellence in all its endeavors.
"This grant directly supports the school's mission to improve quality of life by leading innovation in oral health education, research and service," Glick said. "The new MDU will enable us to better train the next generation of health care providers while increasing awareness of the impact oral health has on a person's overall well being. We're humbled to play a role in improving the quality of life throughout the Western New York community."
First established 16 years ago by Louis Goldberg, then dean of the School of Dental Medicine, UB's dental van is one of few dental operations still accepting Medicaid and Child Health Plus in the county. The van makes stops at schools in Dunkirk, Cassadaga, Brocton, Ripely, Westfield, Clymer, Jamestown and Sherman throughout the year.