NYSDA Expands Dental Program to Columbia University, Providing Essential Care to Underserved Communities

Dental Demonstration Project aims to reach children and families in disadvantaged areas of New York State.

(ALBANY N.Y.) – The New York State Dental Association (NYSDA) is expanding its Dental Demonstration Project (DDP) program to the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, a move made possible by support from Democratic State Senator Timothy Kennedy of Buffalo.

The DDP is a state-funded initiative that was launched by NYSDA in 2015 to benefit underserved communities across New York State. Its primary mission is to match underserved patients with “dental homes” in their communities. The program aims to increase access to dental care, home health utilization and oral health literacy, and decrease the use of emergency departments for dental-focused problems.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the DDP hosted events for people of all ages that highlighted the importance of disease prevention and the benefits of following good dental hygiene and regular dental care. These events evolved into collaborations with Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHCs) and moved to a telehealth model. That new workforce has been instrumental in connecting families to dental services, oral health education, telehealth dental assessments, and appointments for oral care and follow-up.

“Our work with Columbia University will expand the successful outreach initiatives we’ve implemented in other regions of the state, like Western, NY,” said Betsy Bray, Director of Health Affairs for NYSDA. “Teledental visits allow the CDHC to assist families manage and keep dental appointments, review oral hygiene and cavity prevention and triage their dental problems. We plan to continue to use teledental services to engage school-aged children and their caregivers. Additionally, the CDHCs will work to rebuild the participation of the community partners lost during the pandemic.” 

The DDP strives to close the gap on unmet dental needs and link families to resources in their local community. The Columbia University College of Dental Medicine is a primary provider of vital oral health care services to underserved patient populations in New York City neighborhoods.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with the New York State Dental Association on this innovative program," said Biana Roykh, DDS, MPH, Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. “We look forward to replicating the success of the community dental health care model right here in Washington Heights, where the need is so great. The Community Dental Healthcare Coordinators will strengthen our longstanding connections with our tremendous community partners, support our excellent providers in delivering service to our patients and enable real progress in our ongoing commitment to health equity.”  

The DDP utilizes CDHCs in key areas for project planning, implementation and follow-up with patients. Bray said CDHCs are essential in ensuring underserved communities continue to access dental care.