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State grant expands Buffalo’s mobile school-based dental service program

April 09, 2015

By Michelle Manchir

Going mobile: Students at Cuba-Rushford Elementary School cut the ribbon on the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine mobile dental program expansion March 20 in Cuba, New York. In the back row are Karen Dasaro, third grade teacher at the school; Carlos Gildemeister, Superintendent of the Rushford-Cuba School District; Catharine Young, New York State Senator, 57th Senate District; Dr. Michael Glick, Dean of UB School of Dental Medicine; Ed Zalar, local school board president; David Crowley, local school board vice president; Dr. Stephen Abel, Associate Dean for Students, Community and Professional Initiatives at UB School of Dental Medicine.
Buffalo, New York — The University at Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine is expanding a mobile school-based dental service program with the help of a state grant that will bring dental care to geographically isolated areas in New York and also give dental students a chance to experience rural health care delivery.

The expansion of the program dubbed “S-miles To Go” will benefit two counties in rural New York — Allegany and Cattaraugus — that are designated as dental provider shortage areas. A $250,000 state grant secured for the expansion is expected to add 12 schools or Head Start programs to the more than a dozen schools the program already serves, according to Dr. Stephen Abel, associate dean for Student Affairs and Community and Professional Initiatives at the Buffalo dental school.

A ribbon cutting for the expanded program was held last month at an elementary school, Cuba-Rushford Elementary School in Cuba, New York, which will benefit from the mobile effort.

The “S-miles To Go” initiative began 15 years ago and was enhanced three years ago with grants that allowed the school to buy a 42-foot, three-chair mobile dental unit outfitted with digital radiography (including a panoramic x-ray unit), electronic health record system and a wheelchair lift, according to Dr. Abel. Patients are offered comprehensive dental care, including screenings, cleanings, sealants, restorative treatment, educational services and referrals for acute cases.

“While the dental van serves as a dental home for many, we strive to place all patients in a permanent dental home within their community,” Dr. Abel said.

University at Buffalo dental students, pediatric and general dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants staff the bus.

“The UB School of Dental Medicine is excited to participate in this program that will expand access to oral health care, and increase dental student awareness of rural health issues,” said Dr. Michael Glick, dean of the Buffalo dental school and also the editor of the Journal of the American Dental Association. “We are educating a group of future health care professionals, some of whom will ideally choose to practice and live in rural communities. At the University at Buffalo and the School of Dental Medicine, our purpose — our promise — is to reach others.”

The program is expected to provide more than 6,000 patient visits in 2016.