Mayor Byron Brown announced the formation of the Pediatric Dental Task Force to develop solutions to improve the oral health of children in Buffalo and Western New York.

“The statistics surrounding the oral health of our region’s children is concerning,” said Mayor Brown, noting that his ‘Clean Sweep’ Initiative helped to identify a need for the creation of a task force to further examine the ongoing challenges that low-income families face in dental care. “Thousands of youth have never seen a dentist and there are many more that do not have a dental home. That’s why we are empaneling a group of experts to find real solutions, knowing that poor dental health has been linked to poor school performance and an increase in school absences.”

The 15 member group to be co-chaired by Paul Creighton, DDS, Interim Chair of the University at Buffalo’s Department of Pediatric and Community Dentistry, will feature a broad cross-section of community, dental and health care leaders. Dr. Creighton also serves as the president of University Pediatric Dentistry.

In 2010, the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York published a study which highlighted the dire need for improved public awareness and child dental care in the region, particularly in low income neighborhoods. This report indicated that children in Western New York had fallen behind national averages; one area in particular was among 6-11 year-olds, where Erie County’s low income third graders had a 22% higher incidence of caries (tooth decay).

Since the 2010 report was issued, Medicaid reimbursements have been reduced significantly for oral healthcare and many of the resources for pediatric dentistry no longer exist. According to the Health Research and Services Administration (HRSA) the City of Buffalo is designated as a Health Provider Shortage Area for dental services, which means that the pool of dental providers is not sufficient to care for the population within the City. Also, the Erie County Health Assessment 2010-2013 states that only 41% of dentists accept Medicaid further reducing the options for those who can least afford care.

Dr. Creighton said, “We need to make sure children are getting the proper care that they need and deserve. This task force will allow us to create community partnerships that will get to the root causes of some of the underlying problems that we see every day.”

The Pediatric Dental Task Force has been hand selected to represent a wide cross-section of community members and services that will have a real impact on identifying areas of opportunity for improving oral health. This all-volunteer group will be tasked with meeting over the course of one year to further examine the dental care challenges faced by families in Buffalo and Western New York and develop executable strategies to quickly begin to address the issues.

Michael Glick, DMD, Dean of the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine said, “We know that oral health has a serious impact on overall health. Participating in this Task Force is an extension of our many efforts to serve the community and the School is ultimately committed to helping the children of Buffalo live healthier lives.”

“Many of the children that we treat from our underserved communities require some form of restorative care including repairing damaged teeth, providing fillings and in some cases oral surgery,” said Dr. Creighton. “Studies show kids are missing school because of dental problems. Imagine the opportunities they could have if they could only concentrate without pain. This Task Force is going to find ways to help give them the life they’ve always dreamed about.”

The following is a current list of Task Force members:

– LaVonne Ansari, PhD, President and CEO of the Community Health Center of Buffalo

– Diane Bessel, PhD, Director of Research, Investments and Advocacy at United Way

– Jessica Blakely, DDS, Inspire Dental Group

– Gale Burstein, MD, MPH, FAAP, Erie County Commissioner of Health

– Byron Brown, Mayor, City of Buffalo

– Dian Chinkit-Wells, DDS, University Pediatric Dentistry

– Paul Creighton, DDS, Interim Chair, University at Buffalo’s Dept. of Pediatric and Community Dentistry

– Ivery Daniels, Pastor, White Rock Baptist Church

– Tracey Fest, RDH, Patient Care Coordinator, University Pediatric Dentistry

– Roseann McAnulty, Chief Operating Officer, University Pediatric Dentistry

– Belle Walls Montree, Vice President Behavioral Services, Child and Family Services, Retired

– Yahye Y. Omar, Executive Director, H.E.A.L.

– Lynn C. Rivers, PT, PhD, Director, D’Youville College’s Physical Therapy Program

– Sue Ventresca, Director of Health Related Services, Buffalo Public Schools