Philadelphia – Penn Dental Medicine has been awarded a $650,000 grant from Delta Dental of Pennsylvania and its affiliates, to expand the school’s community outreach efforts. The grant will support PennSmiles, the school’s long-standing oral health education and clinical care program for school children and their families in West and Southwest Philadelphia, providing funds for a new mobile dental vehicle as well as the operational costs for educational programs.
“PennSmiles is our flagship program in terms of bringing oral health education and dental care to school children and their families in the West and Southwest Philadelphia communities,” said Dr. Joan Gluch, Chief of the Division of Community Health. “Funding from Delta Dental of Pennsylvania will allow us to replace the 14-year-old existing PennSmiles bus with a modern, new dental bus, thus ensuring continuity in care for the school children we serve.”
The school- and community-based oral health education component of PennSmiles launched in 2000 in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, and since 2003, Penn Dental Medicine students and faculty have also been providing comprehensive dental care aboard the PennSmiles dental bus. Presently, the PennSmiles program works with 24 pre-school, elementary, and middle public and charter schools in the neighborhoods within approximately 24-square-miles of the University of Pennsylvania. In the current academic year, all predoctoral dental students participated in Penn’s service-learning courses in community health, which include the PennSmiles education, preventive, and dental care programs. The Penn service-learning courses allow dental students to gain practical experiences in community settings while providing much-needed oral health education and dental care in the West and Southwest Philadelphia communities.
“Delta Dental and PennSmiles have a shared goal of improving the oral health of Pennsylvania residents,” said Kenneth Yale, DDS, chief clinical officer for Delta Dental. “We’re pleased to help PennSmiles expand their community outreach with a new dental vehicle to help underrepresented communities become healthier.”
The new PennSmiles dental vehicle will replace the existing bus, which will continue on a part-time basis, enabling the school to provide oral health education and clinical care to 5,000 children in the 2017-2018 academic year. Like the original, the new PennSmiles bus is designed as a 40-foot vehicle, featuring two dental operatories, fully outfitted for comprehensive dental care, with electronic dental record and digital radiology capabilities.
The exterior design will mimic the original bus with its bright red cab and vibrant photography that has become a warm and welcome presence in West Philadelphia. “When residents see the PennSmiles bus, they see a tangible commitment from Penn Dental Medicine to improve the oral health of children in our community,” said Dr. Gluch.
It is anticipated that the new PennSmiles vehicle, being developed with Mobile Specialty Vehicles of Jasper, Texas, will be completed for delivery in October 2017.
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