UB receives nearly $735,000 to expand dental care for patients with disabilities in WNY

The UB S-Miles To Go mobile dental clinic stationed in a parking lot.

The funding will help provide dental care to patients with disabilities in the University at Buffalo mobile dental clinic. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Grant will increase training for dental students on treating patients with disabilities

Release Date: December 13, 2021

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“It is our hope that this type of clinical-based rotation – in which students are treating patients in an environment that emphasizes their ability rather than their disability – will inspire dental students to be part of the solution to improving access to care. ”
Stephen N. Abel, senior director of community and professional initiatives at the UB School of Dental Medicine

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine has received a nearly $735,000 grant from the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation to increase the delivery of critical dental treatment to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Western New York, as well as to help grow the oral health care workforce prepared to treat this population.

The funding will help resume and expand a previous initiative between the UB School of Dental Medicine’s S-Miles To Go program and nonprofit Arc GLOW that provided dental care to patients with disabilities in the university’s mobile dental clinic. The grant will broaden services to reach nearly 2,000 individuals with disabilities served by Arc GLOW in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

“We are very grateful to the support provided by the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation. The Foundation has made it possible for the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine to continue its important outreach activities in providing access to dental care to underserved populations throughout Western New York,” says Joseph J. Zambon, PhD, DDS, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor and dean of the UB School of Dental Medicine.

“We are proud to partner with the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine to improve the oral health of those in need throughout Western New York,” said Kenzie Ferguson, vice president of Foundation and corporate social responsibility for Delta Dental of California. “The partnership helps us achieve our broader mutual goals of increasing access to oral health care across a variety of underserved communities.”

Addressing a critical shortage in dental care

Patients with disabilities face numerous barriers to oral health care, including a lack of access to transportation and adequate coverage and reimbursement through Medicaid and other insurances, along with a shortage of dentists trained to meet their needs, says Stephen N. Abel, DDS, senior director of community and professional initiatives at the UB School of Dental Medicine. Inadequate compensation for provider time leads some dentists to decline treating patients with disabilities, he says. Those that do treat this population often have waiting lists that are months-long.

By stationing a mobile dental clinic at Arc GLOW locations, the UB School of Dental Medicine will eliminate major barriers to care for Arc GLOW staff, and people served and their families.

“Our partnership with the UB School of Dental Medicine fills a tremendous need across the GLOW counties of Western New York,” says Shelley Falitico, director of development and public relations at Arc GLOW. “We will work to spread the word to our families, staff and their loved ones about the array of dental services the UB Dental clinic offers.”

The services will be provided in a new mobile dental clinic that is expected to begin operation in early 2022. The clinic, operated by UB staff, faculty and students, will offer comprehensive oral health care, including preventive, restorative and surgical procedures. Care that cannot be provided in the mobile dental van will be delivered at the UB Dental clinic in Squire Hall on UB’s South Campus.  

The initiative also aims to develop a preventive oral health program that will address the behavioral determinants of common oral diseases found among members of the disability community. 

The new mobile dental unit — a 40-feet-long, two-chair clinic outfitted with a state-of-the-art panoramic X-ray unit, digital radiography, sterilization center, wheelchair lift and electronic health record system — will operate at Arc GLOW locations several days per week. 

The S-Miles To Go program has served Western New York communities for over 20 years, providing more than 45,000 patient visits and offering students experiential learning opportunities caring for the most vulnerable populations in the region.

“It is our hope that this type of clinical-based rotation – in which students are treating patients in an environment that emphasizes their ability rather than their disability – will inspire dental students to be part of the solution to improving access to care,” says Abel.

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