UI Dentistry gets children's grant

BY EMMA WILLIS | JULY 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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After 30 years of work in the dental field, University of Iowa College of Dentistry’s Gayle Gilbaugh, a specialized care coordinator, and Cathy Skotowski, a UI clinical assistant professor of pediatric dentistry, continue to demonstrate their passion in the field.

As lead investigators of the programs, Gilbaugh and Skotowski and the Department of Pediatric Dentistry received a $15,000 grant from the Nation Children’s Oral Health Foundation July 3 for their community-outreach programming.

The National Children’s Oral Health Foundation, also referred to as America’s ToothFairy, is an international organization, with programs in both the United States and Canada.

The foundation, founded in 2006, is a collaboration between oral-care leaders to prevent the potentially destructive consequences of pediatric dental disease.

The UI Pediatric Dentistry Department, an affiliate of the national foundation, is committed to improving infant, young child, and adolescent oral health, emphasizing treatment for under privileged families.

Gilbaugh and Skotowski, now two-time recipients, plan to do just that.

With the same goals in mind as 2011 when they received their first foundation grant, they wish to strengthen five community-outreach programs including an infant oral-health clinic, collaboration with Head Start, outreach to hemophiliac patients, involvement in local health fairs, and continued partnership with Proteus at migrant summer camps.

The grant will be used to help provide supplies for oral-health screenings such as gloves, masks, and disposable mouth mirrors, along with tools for fluoride varnish treatment. Also included are oral-care products such as toothbrushes and dental floss and educational material such as videos and brochures.

“We continually use these resources to help educate parents and children on proper oral health care in an effort to prevent dental disease,” Skotowski said.

After 18 years of partnership with Proteus Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to providing immigrants with varied services, dentistry students and faculty provide oral care for 30 to 50 children on a weekly basis, most of whom lack the proper care at home.

Proteus Bilingual Regional Director Sara Maduka said she is excited to continue the partnership.

“Budgets are tight,” she said. “So for them to offer these services is fantastic.”

Though supplying these programs with toothbrushes and more oral-hygiene tools is a large part of the grant, Skotowski said, the majority of the money will be used toward the UI Dental Care Program.

The program, coordinated by Gilbaugh, offers oral care to uninsured and underinsured children and adolescents.

Families need just an application and proof that the household income is less than 200 percent of the U.S. Federal Register’s Poverty Guideline.

“I’m afraid some these families would not receive any care if it weren’t for these programs,” Gilbaugh said.

With the hope that families will continue to apply for participation in the Dental Care Program, both agreed education was the best way to be proactive.

“Success is far greater practiced at home than if they only come to a clinic once a year,” Skotowski said.

Gilbaugh said it is especially important for a child’s self-esteem, self-image, and participation.

“It’s hard to pay attention if they have a toothache,” she said.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 42 percent of children ages 2 to 11 have dental decays or cavities in their teeth.

That percentage jumps to 59 percent for children between ages 12 to 19.

To date, approximately 20 percent of these cases go untreated for both age groups.

The effects of the conditions can continue beyond the ability, or lack there of, to focus.

Tooth decay can affect children’s sleep patterns as well as their appetites, said Karin Weber, a UI associate professor of pediatric dentistry.

“Many lose weight or stop growing because of poor oral health,” she said. “It’s important that we see them no later than 12 months to prevent this.”

Highlighting the importance of outreach dentistry, Weber is excited about what the grant will do to continue their efforts.

She said that one important factor is student exposure.

“They get to see the reality of children living with these harmful diseases,” she said. “They are then more willing to be more active in the field.”

Skotowski said she’s excited about continuing with her passion in these programs.

“Oral health is a part of overall health,” she said. “These programs provide a greater chance for these kids to have disease-free mouths.”

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