The Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF) has provided the University of Florida (UF) College of Dentistry with a $1.2 million grant to continue the collaborative mission of improving the oral health of underserved children in Collier County.
The renewal for 2020 to 2022 of the existing NCEF grant will help sustain community-based prevention efforts at the college’s Naples-based NCEF Pediatric Dental Center, where UF pediatric dental residents also provide oral healthcare to children from Collier County.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Naples Children & Education Foundation for their collaboration and for their continued support of the mission of the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center,” said UF College of Dentistry dean A. Isabel Garcia, DDS, MPH.
“As one of the largest oral health safety net providers in Florida, we have a responsibility to serve our state and the children of Southwest Florida by delivering the highest degree of patient-centered care and service,” said Garcia.
The NCEF grant will support the dental center’s school-based dental sealant program in Collier County, the screening and fluoride varnish program, and the center’s use of silver diamine fluoride (SDF) to help halt tooth decay.
The center also will add the use of atraumatic restorative technique (ART), an evidence-based, minimally invasive approach to restoring cavities in young children. ART requires no needles, local anesthesia, sedation, or drilling.
When used in conjunction with SDF, the school said, this approach to caries management, known as silver-modified atraumatic restorative technique (SMART) has been shown to be highly effective in managing tooth decay in baby teeth.
With NCEF’s support in these initiatives, the dental center expects SMART to significantly reduce the high levels of untreated disease documented in Collier County the past six years, reduce the incidence of urgent dental needs, and improve the health and well-being of children who experience high levels of dental disease.
The NCEF Pediatric Dental Center, located on Florida Southwestern State College’s Collier County campus, opened in 2008 and is one of UF’s five Florida dental centers. It offers routine and specialty services for children through the age of 21 in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified 20,000-square-foot facility.
Local philanthropists founded NCEF in 2000 to address income disparities in Collier County that predominantly affect children. Families in the low-income and impoverished communities in the county, including seasonal farmworkers in Immokalee, live on $9,496 to $24,556 a year, the school said.
Supported with proceeds from the Naples Winter Wine Festival, NCEF has invested more than $212 million in programs that significantly improve the physical, emotional, and educational lives of local children, the organization said.
“NCEF is proud to extend our partnership with the University of Florida’s College of Dentistry to further the efforts of our Oral Health Initiative,” said NCEF chief executive officer Maria Jimenez-Lara.
“Since our initial grant in 2006, we have seen incredible results in expanding access to basic dental care and reducing the number of children locally who suffer from dental disease and oral health-related issues,” said Jimenez-Lara.
A 2005 study commissioned by the NCEF revealed a “catastrophic crisis in oral health” among Collier children. More than a third, or around 17,000, had no access to basic dental care. At one elementary school, nearly 70% of students had untreated decay and 18% had abscesses, swelling, and other problems requiring immediate help.
Enter the collaboration between NCEF and the UF College of Dentistry, with support from Florida Southwestern State College, area hospitals, and state and local agencies. Fueled by a $4.5 million grant from the NCEF matched by the state to total $9 million, the state of the art NCEF Pediatric Dental Center was born, UF said.
The dental center features a UF College of Dentistry pediatric residency training program and multiple programs for community outreach and prevention. It also treats children with special needs. To treat the most serious cases, the center works with Physicians Regional and Lee Health to provide weekly access to operating rooms.
“It’s been fun and wonderful and very rewarding,” said Lauren Governale, DMD, who was selected to lead the center prior to its opening in December 2008.
“We have completed about 158,000 patient visits to date, a couple thousand operating room cases, and 1,500 IV sedation cases. We even have referrals from pediatric dentists from the community for work that is too extensive (for them),” Governale said.