The UB School of Dental Medicine chose the Spanish word for mouth—“boca”—as the name of its program that provides free dental care in communities from Appalachia to Mexico to West Africa that lack access to sufficient dental services.
More than 300 UB student dentists and residents have participated in the program, along with over 50 different supervising faculty members. As of 2011, the students and professionals have examined over 12,000 patients, performing nearly 8,000 dental restorations and 11,000 extractions, work that would normally cost $3.2 million.
While the most important beneficiaries of the BOCA program are the patients, the UB dental students who participate in the five-day outreach missions are rewarded with hands-on experience performing dental procedures: The typical student workload includes completing 30 to 60 extractions and up to 25 restorations in five days.
The UB students also gain valuable insight into lives less privileged than their own: Most of BOCA’s patients live in huts, without heat or electricity, and have never received dental care.
Donations to the BOCA Fund pay for these procedures and restorative dental work, as well as for educating patients on correct dental hygiene. Funds also pay for portable dental units and chairs, as well as for part of students’ travel and living expenses.