New York Dental School, Foster Care Agency Partner to Improve Kids’ Oral Care

The New York University College of Dentistry partnered with local foster care agency Graham Windham to bring routine dental care to more than 650 foster children. Authors presented the abstract “An Approach to Dental Healthcare in an Inner-City Foster Care Population: The Partners Against Caries Program” at the American Academy of Pediatrics conference on Oct. 21.

Dr. Joseph Marvizi, a Bakersfield cosmetic dentistry provider, understands that routine oral care is crucial to exemplary overall health. Dental health can affect children’s school attendance, school performance and mental health.

Previously the Graham Windham foster care children received dental care from multiple providers in a variety of locations. The partnership with the NYUCD streamlined the children’s oral care by providing a “dental home” for the children in spring 2011. The program is called the Partnership Against Caries (PAC). Healthy Foster Care America reports about 35 percent of kids entering foster care have existing oral health issues that need to be addressed.

“Dental health has been described as a ‘window’ to a child’s well-being,” says Graham Windham’s Medical Director Dr. Mitchell Rubin. “We believe that an optimal dental state is a necessary ingredient for the interrelated spectrum of medical, mental and social health.”

The program has helped more than 650 children between 18 months and 21 years old gain regular dental care, and it has also proven beneficial for NYUCD dental students.

“Most of the dental students have little knowledge of the foster care system,” says Elizabeth Best, study author and Outreach Program Administrator for the Department of Pediatric Dentistry. “At NYUCD, we are graduating dental students who have worked with this population, and are aware of their unique health care needs.”

Best says the children enjoyed being treated by younger dental students, and the students enjoyed engaging the children during their oral care.

Dental school students examined participating children for any present dental issues, administered fluoride treatments, regularly cleaned teeth and educated families on dental issues. The children received care at one of two foster care facilities, and the program also coordinated transportation for kids to see doctors for more advanced care.

The partners in this program hope PAC’s success provides a model for similar community outreach programs to emulate in other areas. Dr. Marvizi realizes many kids are lucky to receive routine dental care and even specialty cosmetic care such as Invisalign Teen treatment. Dentists in Bakersfield can contact the Kern County Network for Children to learn more about foster care needs in the area.

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