November 28, 2022

The New England Center for Children® (NECC®), a global leader in autism education and research, has announced plans to build a state-of-the-art dental clinic operated by New England Dental Group (NEDG) in its school in Southborough.

The clinic will provide on-site dental services for NECC students with autism as an expansion of the Smigel Supersmile® Dental Program – a dental desensitization protocol that helps prepare children with autism for dental visits. Plans were unveiled at the 2022 Children of Promise Gala, in which NECC raised a record $1.29 million.

“Going to the dentist is stressful for lots of us, and when you consider the additional challenges children with autism face, it can lead to oral health disparities among children with autism,” said Jessica Sassi, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA, executive director of NECC Southborough. “I really believe this is a quality-of-life issue for our students, not only being able to get them the dental care they need but doing so in a context in which they are comfortable.”


The Smigel Supersmile® Dental Clinic, NECC’s new in-school dental clinic that will serve the school’s 121 residential students, is the latest innovation in NECC’s mission to transform the lives of children with autism. NECC researchers saw a problem – that dental visits were difficult, if not impossible, for children with autism. 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.

There are oral health disparities among children with autism as the severity of problem behavior prevents some from successfully tolerating oral examinations and procedures. Dental appointments are resource intensive when students and staff need to travel up to an hour each way to visit a dentist who specializes in treating patients with special needs.

The Smigel Supersmile® Dental Clinic solves these problems and is tremendously impactful. The in-school clinic will have dental services provided by New England Dental Group, the presenting sponsor of the Children of Promise Gala. NEDG offers the full breadth of dental services and utilizes state-of-the-art technology for enhanced care in its nine locations throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The group’s commitment to ensuring members of its community—including individuals with autism—receive high-quality dental care has been a driving force behind its involvement with NECC. 

“As a supporter of NECC, New England Dental Group hopes to accomplish more awareness and education throughout the community on the importance of oral hygiene,” said GT Thiagarajah, director of operations at NEDG. “We are looking forward to removing the barriers children with autism face when going to the dentist. It’s very important that every child and adult receives proper oral hygiene, and this will help ensure NECC students won’t suffer underlying health issues due to the lack of proper dental care.”   

“Building a dental clinic on site is an expensive proposition and it’s one we needed a partnership to fully execute,” said Sassi. “New England Dental Group jumped at the opportunity to deeply impact the lives of our students and they have been incredible partners on this journey. It’s through our community partnerships that something like the Supersmile® Dental Clinic dream can become a reality.”

The Smigel Supersmile® Dental Clinic operated by New England Dental Group is slated to open in spring 2023.