The Canada-United States chapter of the Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future (ACFF) has awarded four interprofessional grants totaling more than $50,000 to fund projects designed to reduce dental caries, which is reversible, among children age 6 and under. These projects will be carried out in 2019.
The grant program aims to bring together groups outside of dentistry such as pediatrics and primary care to help underserved communities. Made possible through funding from Colgate-Palmolive, the grants focus on populations with high caries needs and disadvantaged communities such as those with low incomes and/or limited access to care.
Worldwide, 60% to 90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults have tooth decay, the ACFF reports. Dental caries, which includes all stages of tooth decay, is the most common yet preventable chronic disease in the world, ACFF adds.
In Canada, about 2.226 million school days are missed each year due to dental related illness, the ACFF said. In the United States, a child is five times more likely to seek emergency room treatment for dental problems than for asthma, often because they can’t see a dentist, are uninsured, or can’t afford routine dental care, according to the ACFF.
“This grant funds projects that exemplify recognition of the need for interprofessional collaboration to address oral health needs,” said Robert Schroth, DMD, MSc, PhD, co-chair of the Canada-US chapter of the ACFF. “It is through working together that we can find the best solutions and provide the most thoughtful approaches to prevent dental caries.”
This year’s recipients include:
- Promoting Oral Health—Healthier Mothers and Children Through IP Collaboration: Through a student rotation, Eastern Washington University (EWU) dental hygiene students will implement an oral health education program in partnership with St. Margaret’s Shelter. They also will provide fluoride varnish and sealants and help those at the shelter establish a dental home. EWU Communication Sciences Disorders students will coordinate feeding, speech, and hearing screenings. All students will work in collaboration with St. Margaret’s case workers.
- Streamlining ECC Hospital Waitlists and Public Dental Health Integration at the Northern Health Dental Program: This project will address the barriers preventing young children from getting the dental surgery they need. By facilitating a discussion with affected partners, the team will improve the referral process. The team also will explore including an automatic referral option into the child’s hospital operating room pre-screen form to give all parents the choice to have their child visit the dental public health clinics for free fluoride varnish applications and behavior change supports.
- Dental Champions Leadership Program—Keeping Kansas Kids Cavity-Free by Oral Health Kansas (OHK): This is a continuation of the already established Dental Champions Leadership Program to increase the number of diverse voices advocating for improved oral health in Kansas. The Dental Champions program has helped OHK develop an interprofessional network of state-level “Champions” with progressive vision for improving oral health. A new class of Champions will explore leadership, policy, and educational approaches to increasing the number of pregnant women and children under the age of 3 who are referred to and seen by a dental professional. The class will include dental and medical professionals as well as public health officials and other stakeholders.
- Pediatric Patient Centered Approach to Integrating Oral Health into Primary Care at Project HOME, Philadelphia: This initiative will focus on dental education and fluoride varnish applications for children in Lower North Philadelphia, a dental health professional shortage area. By expanding dental services into primary care, the project aims to prevent carious lesions in primary dentition, reduce the need for surgical interventions, and help break the cycle of poor oral healthcare in North Philadelphia.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to fund so many much needed projects this year,” said Margherita Fontana, DDS, PhD, co-chair of the Canada-US chapter of the ACFF. “We believe these programs will have a significant impact on our ability to understand how interprofessional efforts can help us address dental caries disparities.”