On September 25, 2013, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark hosted a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the opening of the BGCN Children’s Dental Center, a free pediatric dental clinic housed in the Central Ward Clubhouse.
The facility is opening its doors to all BGCN members, offering a full range of dental services that include oral health screenings, dental fillings, x-rays, sealants, fluoride treatments and simple extractions. Initial plans call for office hours 2 times a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but the ultimate goal is to provide free, full-time dental care, allowing for up to 2000 visits per year for Newark’s most vulnerable youth.
BGCN Trustee and general dentist Dr. Michael Gruber provided the driving force behind the bold initiative. Gruber reached out to colleagues in the profession (including Dr. Lisa Sobel, wife of fellow BGCN Board member Jason Sobel) and soon he had a volunteer roster of 23 leading dentists, hygienists and assistants, as well as donated supplies and equipment needed to establish the clinic. Generous support from individual donors as well as foundation grants from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, Delta Dental, Healthy Smiles and MCJ/Amelior generated necessary funds for construction and year one of service. A proposed partnership with UMDNJ’s Community Service Outreach program promises to expand the pool of qualified volunteers.
Paul Sciré, BGCN’s CEO, is confident that the clear benefits of free and accessible pediatric dental care will mark the BGCN Children’s Dental Center as a game-changer in the community. Not only is tooth decay the most prevalent chronic disease facing Newark’s poorest children, it is a proven gateway to more serious illness, and a serious impediment to academic achievement.
“The Children’s Dental Center perfectly exemplifies Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark’s commitment to serving the whole child, “says Sciré. “Healthy teeth are critical to healthy living, which makes this free dental center a natural extension of our mission to help Newark’s kids reach their full potential.”