Two public hospitals in the borough are celebrating an achievement in childhood and adolescent dental care.
Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital announced that they had reached a milestone of providing preventative and restorative dental care to 2,500 high-risk young people as part of a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the federal government.
The grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration allowed for the expansion of the NYC Health + Hospitals programs geared towards children, improved access for young people and helped to train additional resident doctors who will learn to integrate dentistry and medicine together for their entire careers, said hospital officials.
“The (focus) of this grant was specifically in the area of pediatric dentistry, because obviously if you start out with poor dental health you essentially become a dental cripple for the rest of your life,” said Dr. Victor Badner, chairman of both hospitals’ dentistry department.
The allocation allowed the hospitals to be “more upstream” and allow children to prevent entirely preventable oral diseases by providing access to dental services as early as possible in their lives, reducing disparities in care and reinforcing good hygiene practices, said Badner.
The grant coincided with a proactive approach to reaching parents, as the dentistry department used additional resources to outreach to a Women’s Infants and Children program, pediatric units at the hospitals and the Illyria Clinic for the Albanian community, said Badner.
The stepped up efforts also includes the hiring of additional dental assistants and hygienists, equipping two new operatories and expanded dental clinic hours, he said.
The $2.5 million dollar grant covers July 2015 to July 2020, he said, adding that the hospitals are already looking at possible grants for the future.
It has helped bring the Department of Dentistry further along in facilitating public health, while being more culturally sensitive and reaching patients they wouldn’t otherwise reach, according to hospital officials.
Dr. Nadia Laniado, author of the 60-page grant and director of community dentistry and population health, said receiving this type of funding is a highly competitive process with only roughly a dozen awarded out of a multitude of applications.
The allocation, known as a Title 7 grant, is a residency training program grant with a component improving access to care, she said, in what is a win-win situation for all.
“We have been able to increase the number of pediatric dental residents from eight to ten,” she said, adding the additions amounted to a 25% growth in the pediatric dental program.
A lot of parents, especially many immigrant and first-time parents, may not realize how important it is to establish a ‘dental home’ for children within the first years of their lives, said Laniado.
“We can provide them with education, and teach them about proper feeding, nutrition and oral hygiene…before the child may be doing damage that can be harmful to their health,” she said.
Badner said that while it is often possible to repair dental damage, it is also typically costly and out of reach to many patients.
The grant and the work done by the dental team represents a commitment to providing world-class outpatient care, said Christopher Mastromano, Jacobi’s executive director, in a statement.