NYU dental program provides free care in Plattsburgh

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) For people living paycheck to paycheck, deciding what luxuries to do without each week is a part of life. Preventative health care and dental work can often be the first things to go in rural areas where doctors and dentists are scarce, but now a program is offering free dental work in New York's North Country.

Antica Petit-Frere knows pain. "Swollen gums, painful," she said.

The Plattsburgh woman says she has suffered consistent tooth pain since February, when she lost her job and health insurance. She has three children and it's been a struggle for her to find affordable coverage. "That includes dental, that doesn't want to just pull your teeth," she said.

For the first time, free dental work is being offered for Plattsburgh community members.

"We found out that Plattsburgh has a few challenges of people getting dental care because of how big the county is, the lack of transportation, other factors that prevent access to health care, and they decided to bring the project here," said Suzette Stiens, a clinical asst. professor at New York University.

Students from NYU and their professors have teamed up with United Healthcare to provide x-rays, root canals, extractions, cleaning -- you name it.

"We'll gather together a group of faculty and students and come into a community for a week and provide whoever shows up, whoever wants care with as much care as we can provide," Stiens said.

"To hear that this was happening, I said this was only God's work. I didn't know how, I didn't know that they offered anything like this," Petit-Frere said.

The dental professionals say the leading cause for school-aged children to miss school is a toothache, and improper dental care can lead to major health problems in the future. "We know that there's a very strong association between having chronic dental disease, having diabetes, having high blood pressure," Stiens said.

The students are also getting first-hand experience in their trade while the community gets the first hand help that they need.

"I just feel so privileged to be in this community and be able to work here," Stiens said.

"This is so amazing. I pray they do this every year for families that can't afford it," Petit-Frere said. "If you need help and can't afford it -- take the free help."

The week-long clinic is free and open to area residents on a first-come, first-served basis through Friday, Oct. 5, at West Side Ballroom, 253 New York Road, in Plattsburgh.