University of Bridgeport Awarded $225,000 Community Health Grant by City of Bridgeport

Program funded through the American Rescue Plan will provide Bridgeport residents with more access to oral health care via innovative teledentistry program
A dentist showing how to brush teeth on a model

UB announced today it has been awarded a $225,000 grant by the City of Bridgeport through the American Rescue Plan to help provide Bridgeport residents with improved access to oral health care. This grant will be used to launch an innovative teledentistry program that will provide preventive care and education remotely to Bridgeport residents with otherwise limited access to oral health care. The program is possible due to the recently passed Connecticut telehealth law and will be the first of its kind in the state to include dental hygiene students to deliver this innovative mode of dental care.

As the first school of dental hygiene in the world, UB’s Fones School of Dental Hygiene is recognized globally as the benchmark in oral health education. The program will be led by Associate Director Dr. Jennifer Boyce, DMD, and Director Marion Manski, MS, RDH. Along with Manski, second year dental hygiene students will visit women’s centers, pregnancy clinics, Head Start programs, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, and other Bridgeport-based organizations to provide residents with education, screening and services. While on site, they will assess and gather patient information including x-rays, photos and intraoral scans. This information will then be relayed to Dr. Boyce via teledentistry using HIPAA compliant software and following American Dental Association (ADA) protocols.

“Bridgeport is proud to be home to UB’s world-renowned school of dental hygiene, and we are also extremely appreciative of all the work UB does to support the health of our community,” said Ebony Jackson-Shaheed, health director for the City of Bridgeport. “By partnering with other health organizations in our community, this innovative UB program will bring access to dental care directly to those in Bridgeport who need it most and, in the process, improve the overall health of our city.”

Oral health is essential to overall health, and the COVID-19 pandemic created a backlog of patients seeking oral health care. Factors including misinformation on COVID-19 safety measures, low oral health literacy, lack of transportation and access to the health system continue to negatively impact access to oral care. While it will serve the community overall, the program will place an emphasis on educating pregnant women about the importance of oral health.

In addition to negatively impacting overall health and playing a role in heart and lung disease in the greater population, poor oral health during pregnancy increases the risk of pre-term, low birth weight infants. Providing education regarding infant oral health and nutritional feeding practices to expectant parents will aim to decrease the incidence of early childhood caries, a rampant form of dental decay which can occur in infants and children. Educating mothers, community-based program staff, medical providers and UB’s dental hygiene students on the importance of continued oral care during pregnancy is key to decreasing poor oral health outcomes.

“The Fones School continues to lead the way in groundbreaking oral care, and this novel use of teledentistry is another example of their commitment to educating the community on the importance dental hygiene plays in overall public health,” said Danielle Wilken Ed.D., president of University of Bridgeport. “The program is a great example of UB’s continued commitment to working with the City of Bridgeport to support our neighbors through programs that also provide advanced learning opportunities for our students.”

UB expects the program to launch in early 2022. Signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was established to support state and local governments as they address the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on their communities. Last week UB also announced it received $1.5 million in ARPA grants from the City of Bridgeport to support workforce development and re-entry services for formerly incarcerated Bridgeport residents.