NYC Dental Clinic Closures Will Hurt Neediest Children

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News from New York State Dental Association
For more information contact: Sandra DiNoto, 518-465-0044
NYC Dental Clinic Closures Will Hurt Neediest Children
NYS Dental Association Criticizes Mayor Bloomberg

ALBANY, NY (11/20/2008; 0500)(readMedia)-- The New York State Dental Association today criticized New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed closings of New York City Department of Health dental clinics. The closures, part of sweeping citywide cuts announced recently by the mayor, would impact 44 public health dental clinics serving 17,000 of the city's neediest children.
"Shutting down New York City's dental program exhibits a lack of understanding of the impact of dental disease on the health of New Yorkers and displays a disregard for the city's most vulnerable populations who most need and benefit from access to these programs," said Dr. Stephen Gold, NYSDA president and a pediatric dentist.
NYSDA recently advocated for legislation requiring the state's school districts to request that children receive a dental examination before entering school. New York City schools gained an exemption from the law based on the city already providing sufficient access to children for screenings and services. The city's school-based dental clinics have been the principal resource for assuring the availability of these dental services.
Dental disease is the most prevalent disease among New York's children, yet it is also one of the most easily and cost-effectively preventable diseases.
Transitioning patients from the clinics to a Medicaid-based program as others have suggested would not be the answer said NYSDA. Despite the city's considerable patient enrollment in both Medicaid and Child Health Plus (CHIPs) and the exceptionally large number of dentists available to see these children, NYSDA notes that New York City performs poorly with respect to children receiving effective preventive dental care. New York City's Medicaid program reports the lowest percentages of children receiving sealants in New York State.
The association urged the mayor to reconsider his decision based on the economic and logistical barriers to health care facing many New Yorkers and the crucial public health resource that the dental clinics offer. In the current economy, the role of these clinics in providing necessary care to New York City's children is all the more urgent.
The New York State Dental Association, celebrating 140 years in 2008, is one of the largest state constituents of the American Dental Association and represents 13,000 dentists practicing in New York State. More than 5,000 member-dentists practice in the five boroughs of New York City.