The Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation (ILCHF) is awarding a $2 million grant to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry to build a pediatric dentistry ambulatory surgery center with two general anesthesia suites and five procedure rooms.
The UIC College of Dentistry has become the largest safety net for underserved children in Illinois, many of whom need dental care under general anesthesia, the college reports. There currently is a waiting list of more than 1,300 children, representing a wait of two or more years because of limited access to operating rooms.
The grant will allow the college to serve an additional 1,000 pediatric patients annually who require oral health services under general anesthesia and an additional 1,520 pediatric patients who need to receive services under sedation.
The critical shortage of dental operatories for children on Medicaid was identified in the ILCHF, Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation, and Michael Reese Health Trust commissioned report, Oral Health in Illinois, released in December 2016.
“Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease in the United States, disproportionally affecting minority, low-income, disabled, and chronically ill children,” said Bob Egan Sr, program officer of oral health at ILCHF. “Left untreated, tooth decay can become excruciatingly painful, making it difficult to eat, sleep, or concentrate in school.”
Young children and children with special needs often require sedation before dental procedures. Nearly a third of UIC dental patients have chronic health conditions, and 97% are at or below the poverty line and covered for dental care by Medicaid, the college reports.
“Far too many Illinois children don’t receive the dental care they need,” said Heather Alderman, president of the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation. “This situation is unconscionable when you consider how treatable and preventable these diseases are.”
Construction of the new $3.3 million facility will begin in November 2018, with operation expected to commence in the spring of 2019. The ILCHF will provide $2 million, and UIC raised the remaining funds from a number of other sources.
“On behalf of everyone at the UIC College of Dentistry, I want to express my deepest gratitude to Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation on this transformational grant that will allow us to create a state-of-the-science pediatric dentistry ambulatory surgery center,” said Dr. Clark Stanford, dean of the UIC College of Dentistry.
“The Pediatric Dentistry Ambulatory Surgery Center will have a profound impact on the delivery of oral healthcare to children in Chicago and throughout the State of Illinois for generations to come,” Stanford said.
The ILCHF began investing in children’s oral health programs in 2004 as part of its strategy to make comprehensive health services available to all children in Illinois. The Children’s Oral Health Initiative addresses one of the most significant unmet healthcare needs facing children in the state, according to the group.
In collaboration with the oral health community, the ILCHF aims to provide all children in Illinois with access to high-quality oral health services in their communities, noting that there is a new culture of awareness in the state about the interconnection between oral and overall health.
To date, the ILCHF has committed more than $30 million to children’s oral health programs across the state designed to:
- Build and strengthen the capacity of the safety net system to deliver high-quality services
- Increase the number of health professionals caring for underserved children
- Create a greater awareness of the role that oral health plays in a child’s overall health