Forest Hills Dental Clinic Provides Free Oral Care to Kids

A hygienist cleans on a young person’s teeth. Photo courtesy of Plaza College

A hygienist cleans on a young person’s teeth. Photo courtesy of Plaza College

By David Brand

As New York City moves to provide universal health coverage for all residents, one dental clinic already ensures that Queens residents in need can receive necessary oral care free of charge.

Plaza College’s Community Clinic provides free dental care to children and adults in and around Forest Hills while training a new cohort of dental hygienists through the Associate of Applied Sciences program.

The two-year clinical program enables students to complete more than 500 hours of practical experience under the supervision of an expert dentist, said Dr. Margaret Garland, a Plaza College professor.

“This type of experience simply can’t be recreated in a classroom,” Garland said. “They leave the program with knowledge and experience in all types of dental care and are ready to take on any challenge that sits in their chair.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 11,650 registered dental hygienists work in New York City. The field is projected to grow by nearly a quarter, creating a demand for more than 2,600 hygienist jobs.

“There are not many dental hygiene educational programs offered and this is a real medical need not being met,” said Professor Laura Sleeper, a licensed dental hygienist and the director of the Dental Hygiene Program.  “Oral healthcare is a growing field and the more regularly we can provide care, the sooner that potential problems can be identified and addressed.”