HCSD Children Receiving Needed Dental Care

During the week of Dec. 7 – 11, one classroom in the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School has been transformed into a dental clinic. Children are lined up at a table at the door, eager to get their teeth looked at, while three or four of their peers recline in dental chairs with their mouths wide open and dental professionals probing their canines and incisors.

dental work

LEFT: NYU Dental students work on MCSIS student Jason White as other students get their exams during a free dental clinic Thursday at the school. Photo: Robert Ragaini, Hudson-Catskill Newspapers


The reason for this? More than 1,000 children in the Hudson City School District are receiving dental care this week and in February thanks to an innovative program of the New York University College of Dentistry. Amanda Meissner, the person who developed the program and its successful grant application from the New York Health Foundation, said the focus is primarily on children who don’t have dentists or dental insurance.

The program has already been offered in locations like Head Start, but this is the first time in an actual classroom in a school, she said, suggesting it might be the first public school-based dental clinic in New York state.

And it’s not just examinations the kids are getting, and no cleanings. They’re receiving needed care: fluoride treatments, sealants, x-rays, restorations, fillings, root canals and extractions. And it’s not just a one-time thing. They will be in the schools four times a year for the next three years.

The team includes pediatric residents and overseeing faculty members.

Azi Ahmadi-Ardakani, one of the residents, called this a “great experience.” She said they were seeing a lot of children who have never been to a dentist. These sessions are very helpful for families who can’t afford dental care, she said.

Another resident, Angela Lee, said the clinic is a non-threatening environment for kids who’ve never been to a dentist. “Kids are going, ‘I want that doctor!’” she said.

One of the professors, Jill Fernandez, said more than 50 percent of the 85 children they’re examining have some tooth decay. Generally you would expect 30 to 35 percent in a non-fluoridated community like Hudson, she said.

“They say they brush, but they don’t go further back than their front teeth,” Lee said. “We’re seeing a lot of inflamed gums and gingivitis.”

Prof. Neal Herman said this was an unusual program because it will last three years. Usually programs rely on getting local dentists involved, or getting the school districts to raise money. “We have a concept,” he said, “the dental home. Every child should have somewhere to go.”

The NYU team will be back in February to examine and work on teeth at John L. Edwards Primary School, and then return to MCSIS in June. The program is funded by the New York Health Foundation.