San Ysidro Health Center, along with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, will collaborate with the School of Dentistry at U.C. San Francisco in a study to eliminate painful, difficult and expensive treatments for tooth decay in children as young as one year old. The $11 million grant from the National Institute of Dental Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) makes this collaborative one of only five centers nationally funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH)/NDCR.
According to Ed Martinez, chief administrator at San Ysidro Health Center, the study targets children from environments with a high incidence of dental problems. The seven-year projects aims to eventually find results that will help all young people maintain healthy teeth and mouths.
"This grant provides us with a significant opportunity to address an issue that San Ysidro Health Center deals with daily, the epidemic of dental disease in children," said Martinez. He noted that the prevalence of early childhood caries (tooth decay) is particularly high among some racial and ethnic minorities and low socioeconomic groups.
Jane A. Weintraub, DDS, MPH, the Lee Hysan Professor of Oral Epidemiology and Dental Public Health, will serve as director of the new Center to Address Disparities in Children's Oral Health (CAN-DO). "The primary goals of the Center," said Weintraub, "are to understand, prevent and reduce oral health disparities among young children, with a primary focus on preventing early childhood caries."
Martinez has been an outspoken advocate for children's oral health since he came to San Ysidro Health Center three years ago. San Ysidro Health Center conducted a study of 2,000 underinsured South Bay infants and toddlers that found 68 percent with untreated tooth decay and 25 percent with six or more cavities. The Center has developed specialized programs to identify and treat children with dental disease and has sponsored several symposiums on children's oral health.
Specifically, San Ysidro Health Center will partner with CAN-DO in the development of a Prevention Management Model for Early Childhood Caries. The goal of this project, led by Francisco Ramos-Gomez, DDS, MS, MPH, is to increase understanding and to assess the effectiveness of a dental disease prevention management model based on an infant oral care program. San Ysidro Health Center will work closely with Dr. Ramos-Gomez in assessing high-risk children with signs of early childhood caries, poor hygiene, limited exposure to fluorides, and frequent exposure to high dietary sugars. Martinez noted that children and caretakers will be targeted with a professional preventive program that includes anticipatory guidance counseling, the use of chlorhexidine for postpartum women and the application of fluoride varnish for their infants.
"This major award and collaboration is a crucial component in addressing the critical situation in San Diego and California in childhood dental disease," said Martinez.