Over the past two years Melinda Clark, MD, ’02, has helped brighten the smiles of hundreds of Capital Region children with a pilot program that has made dental care more accessible to needy children. Now, with a grant from the New York State Health Foundation, she will expand that program across Upstate New York.
Called WIC Smiles, the program provides pediatric oral health care training to parents, general dentists, pediatricians and primary care physicians, and provides targeted services for Medicaid-eligible children with the goal of starting good oral health for children as young as possible.
Once the project is approved by the statewide Women, Infants and Children program, Dr. Clark plans to develop 36 WIC Smiles sites over three years, starting with eight sites in 2014.
She said the program provides patients with an initial screening and a fluoride varnish, which is a known cavity preventer for young children.
“Our goal is to ensure dental needs are met before more serious care is required,” she said. “We’re helping children, reducing the need for additional health care and saving money. There are very few programs where all three of those goals come together.”
She called the New York State Health Foundation’s support essential to the program’s success.
“The New York State Health Foundation is known for supporting novel ideas and for having the infrastructure to help establish and evaluate programs,” Dr. Clark said. “Their belief in our evidence-based and community-minded project is a clear sign the initiative has merit.”