PLATTSBURGH — In an effort to increase local access to dental care, a free global outreach initiative will soon be coming to the area.

North Country residents in need of dental exams, X-rays, topical fluoride, sealants, fillings, extractions or root canals will have the opportunity for those services at no cost starting this Sunday.

"We just want to make sure that more people get the care they need," Henry Schein Inc. spokesperson Angela Ruggiero said of the New York University Dentistry Henry Schein Cares Global Student Outreach Program.

Dental students, dental hygiene students, residents and faculty from NYU Dentistry will be coming to Plattsburgh for the first time — this area was selected based on the local population and its growing need for low-income dental services.

"It's based on need and to ensure that they can have access to care," Ruggiero said.

The nearly week-long clinic is free and open to area residents on a first-come, first-served basis from Sunday, Sept. 30, through Friday, Oct. 5, at West Side Ballroom in Plattsburgh. 

FULL RANGE OF CARE

The global outreach program is part of a growing initiative started by the NYU College of Dentistry and sponsored by United Healthcare, with supplies provided by Henry Schein Cares.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dental cavities are the most prevalent infectious disease in children, affecting more than 40 percent of infants and preschoolers by the time they reach kindergarten.

About half of all children from lower-income families suffer from cavities and limited or no access to care.

The clinic is aimed toward underserved children and adults, either uninsured or minimally insured, in need of dental care.

Those covered by Medicaid, for example, have access to essential dental services, but not comprehensive care, which is why the NYU/United Healthcare program provides a full range of care.

A lack of Medicaid providers in the region also contributes to the issue.

And while some Medicare Advantage plans cover some dental needs, Medicare by and large does not pay for care of teeth.

YEARLY FREE TREATMENT

That the need exists here is evident from the long line every year when High Peaks Dental in Plattsburgh offers its one-day-a-year Dentistry from the Heart program, when those 18 or older who can't get dental work elsewhere are given the choice of a free filling, extraction or cleaning.

High Peaks, which held this year's a event earlier this month, guarantees the first 100 patients will be seen and in publicizing the event each year suggests those seeking care prepare for a long wait, possibly outside, with water, snacks, a chair and other comforts.

Coming from around the state, Vermont and even Canada, patients have even shown up as early as 2 a.m. to make sure they can access the care donated by the practice.

HOPES FOR ANNUAL EVENT

While there are a number of other universities partnering in the global initiative coming to the West Side Ballroom, including the University of Buffalo's upcoming trip to Lebanon, NYU officials hope the local clinic will be the first of what is expected to be an annual opportunity.

Ruggiero said Henry Schein, a leading distributor of medical, dental and veterinary services across the globe, looks forward to providing dental supplies and materials locally as part of their many outreach programs.

The dental clinic will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. all other days. The clinic will be closed Wednesday, Oct. 3.

Henry Schein is not an unfamiliar name in the North Country, as North Country Mission of Hope, based in Peru, was named a finalist in the annual Henry Schein Cares Foundation grant competition last year and was awarded $15,000 and another $5,000 in medicines.

And in October, Mission of Hope will have help from the foundation to ship a container of necessary items to a country in need, though details for that project have not yet been firmed up.

— Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.