The New England Center for Children (NECC) community was certainly all smiles on Thursday, September 21 at the grand opening celebration of the new Smigel Supersmile® Dental Clinic operated by New England Dental Group (NEDG), a new state-of-the-art dental clinic on campus.
The new clinic provides on-site dental services for more than 100 residential NECC students with autism, with future plans to expand to day students and employees. The clinic is an expansion of the Smigel Supersmile Dental Program – a dental desensitization protocol that helps prepare children with autism for dental visits.
“I truly cannot express how excited I am that our dental clinic has opened,” said NECC CEO Jessica Sassi, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA. “I have been with the organization for 17 years and throughout that time, I can say that dental appointments have been a real challenge for our students. Dental appointments can be uncomfortable, but then you add the complexities of autism to that, and it is truly a wellness challenge. I have watched our students go through quite a bit and really struggle to get that care.”
Dr. Sassi shared that her very first doctoral student at NECC was committed to solving this issue. Through research and practice, they found a way to teach the students one step at a time until they could tolerate going to the dentist, a life-skill curriculum that is now taught around the world where autism educators are using NECC’s curriculum through their ACE® ABA Software. In addition, dental appointments were resource intensive as students and staff needed to travel up to an hour each way to visit a dentist who specialized in treating patients with special needs.
“We saw what our students could accomplish and what the reality could be for them, so the dream really began there,” added Dr. Sassi. “Fast forward to where we are today. The clinic has served 19 students, some of whom I had accompanied to previous dentist appointments, and I see them sitting in the chair, holding their teacher’s hand, and they’re getting through the appointment. This just means the world to our students, our families, our staff, everybody. It’s truly remarkable.”
Robert Smigel, whose son, Daniel, joined NECC at the age of 12, attended on behalf of Supersmile, which was founded by his late father, Dr. Irwin Smigel.
“My dad would be so happy to see this clinic,” said Smigel. “He made his name as an aesthetic dentist, but he always made the overall health of his patients the primary concern. My dad would tell us when we were younger that life is meaningless if you don’t make a difference. It’s an honor to be here among people who make a difference every day. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible.”
The Smigel Supersmile Dental Clinic services are provided by New England Dental Group (NEDG), which offers a full breadth of services and state-of-the-art technology for enhanced care in its nine locations throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
“We’ve partnered with NECC for a number of events, and we could tell right away that there is an amazing group of people who work here and that our visions aligned,” said Mike Anastasi, chief operating officer of NEDG. “This is a special moment for us, too. This clinic has been over a year in the making, and to see everyone gathered together to celebrate is surreal.”