Grants to Improve Childhood Caries Prediction and Treatment

Dentistry Today


Using a pair of grants from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research totaling $18.3 million, a multi-university team will expand research into predicting caries risk in young children and assessing the efficacy of silver diamine fluoride (SDF) treatment.

The first study, set for 5 years and $8.7 million, will expand the age range for assessing which children are at risk of developing caries. While previous work focused on children up to the age of 4 years, the new grant will continue that research for children up to the age of 8 years.

According to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, one of the participating schools, about 23% of children in the United States between the ages of 2 and 5 years have cavities. That increases to 56% for children between the ages of 6 and 8.

The study will focus on children in low-income and minority population groups where the disparity in the prevalence of caries and in access to treatment is greater than in the general population. 

Also, the study will develop a practical and easily scored caries risk tool for use in primary medical healthcare settings to identify children at high risk of caries and follow their progress up to the age of 8 years. This approach will allow cost-effective preventive and referral strategies to be developed and used in interprofessional settings to prevent caries development from the toddler to the school-age years, according to the researchers.

The researchers further believe that this work will have an immediate and broad impact and influence on existing and new policies, and programs to be delivered by non-dental professionals in medical and non-healthcare settings such as schools as well as by dental professionals in dental settings.

Set for 4 years and $9.6 million, the second grant will fund a Phase II randomized clinical trial to test the effectiveness of SDF in arresting caries in children. It will provide the necessary data for obtaining a cavity arrest drug claim in the United States, following 1,060 children between the ages of 2 and 5 in preschool programs.

The testing will determine if SDF—which is noninvasive, inexpensive, and simple to apply—can profoundly improve oral health by arresting lesions, reducing pain, improving quality of life, and significantly reducing costs, all contributing to substantial reductions in disparities in cavities, particularly in populations with limited access to regular dental care.

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