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YNHH’s Pediatric Dental Program held a ribbon-cutting to officially launch its new mobile unit. From left are: Michael Schaffer, vice president of Ambulatory Care; Maria Alvarado, supervisor for Dental Services; Lauren DiBenedetto, DDS, associate program director for the Pediatric Dental Residency Program; Cassandra Carlin, director of Dental Services; Linda Bouttaphom, clinical manager of Dental Services; and Rosa Flores, infection preventionist.

With mobile Pediatric Dental Unit, hospital’s anti-cavity crew is on the move

mobile dental unit

With help from Facilities and Engineering, the RV previously used as a mobile COVID-19 vaccination unit is now a child-friendly dental center on wheels, complete with stuffed animals staff use to help educate young patients on how to care for their teeth and gums.

With a Jan. 10 ribbon-cutting, members of Yale New Haven Hospital’s Pediatric Dental Program officially launched a new mobile unit that serves children ages 6 months to 18 years in Bridgeport, New London, Waterbury and New Haven.

Attending pediatric dentists, dental physician residents, dental hygienists and other team members staff the mobile Pediatric Dental Unit. They provide exams, cleanings and fluoride treatments and educate youngsters on proper brushing, flossing and other oral health topics. Patients who need procedures that can’t be performed in the mobile unit are referred to the hospital’s Pediatric Dental Center at One Long Wharf in New Haven.

“The Dental Department takes pride in continually expanding upon the services we offer by enhancing access to care and finding new ways to reach out and positively contribute to our local communities,” said Michael Sultan, DDS, Pediatric Dental Department director.

The mobile unit is visiting schools, Head Start programs and other sites, including those serving very young children. A number of the patients do not have dental insurance, and about 20 percent previously did not have a “dental home” where they received regular care. 

“For many of our patients, this is their first visit to the dentist,” said Lauren DiBenedetto, DDS. “By providing regular care, starting with the youngest patients, we hope to prevent problems later on.” 

Young patients are accompanied by their teachers and classmates, in their familiar school environment, which helps put them at ease. Dentists and staff provide gentle, child-centered preventive care in a van stocked with colorful toothbrushes, chocolate-flavored toothpaste and flamingo-adorned dental bibs. Each child leaves with a new toothbrush, toy and a bright smile, said Cassandra Carlin, director of Dental Services, YNHH.

Carlin and Dr. DiBenedetto led the yearlong effort to implement the mobile unit. They applied for and received a $50,000 S.M.I.L.E. grant, funded by Delta Dental. They also secured state approvals and worked with departments throughout the hospital on the project. 

“We are grateful to everyone who helped get this unit on the road, including our Regulatory, Infection Prevention and Facilities teams — particularly Construction Coordinator Michael Kiwanis,” Carlin said. “We look forward to bringing the hospital’s pediatric dental experts to children throughout the state, including those who might not otherwise have access to the exceptional care we provide.”