Oral health grant to benefit Laredo children

DentaQuest Foundation’s award could be catalyst for national dissemination of innovative measurement system created by San Antonio professors

SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 10, 2013) — Dental researchers in the Dental School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio were awarded a one-year $333,768 grant from the DentaQuest Foundation for their innovative school-based outreach program designed to promote oral health for children living in Laredo.

David P. Cappelli, D.M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., professor and director of the Research Division of the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry at the Health Science Center, said his team created SmilesMaker©, a chair-side electronic data system for school- and community-based programs that is used in the Miles of Smiles-Laredo school-based prevention program.

“With support from the DentaQuest Foundation, the SmilesMaker© system will expand to various platforms including an IOS application, a web-based entry system, a dashboard monitoring tool, and fingerprint tracking technology,” said Dr. Cappelli, who is the principal investigator for the grant.

SmilesMaker© allows the dentists to longitudinally monitor the oral health of children in kindergarten through third grade in the United and Laredo Independent School districts.

Jane Steffensen, M.P.H., associate professor of comprehensive dentistry and co-principal investigator, said the school-based program provides the opportunity to prevent tooth decay in children living in Laredo through an active dental sealant and case management program. The program is performed in schools where 75 percent or more of the students are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program.

The SmilesMaker© system includes a case management component that allows the dentists to triage children with urgent dental needs and work with parents to refer the children to a dentist in the area who can help them, Dr. Cappelli said.

“We assist the parent to identify a dentist in the Laredo area who can provide the needed dental care for their child,” he said. “This system will allow us to evaluate the school-based oral health program and its effectiveness in preventing tooth decay in children,” Dr. Cappelli said.

Steffensen said the university’s partnership with the DentaQuest Foundation is a great example of public and non-profit collaboration that makes a difference in the community.

Dr. Cappelli said, “DentaQuest has a vision for the prevention of oral disease and for promoting oral health in children.

“We are excited about disseminating this SmilesMaker© system at no cost to schools and community-based programs throughout the country. The grant will support this endeavor. Together, we can improve the oral health of children along the Texas-Mexico border,” he added.

The DentaQuest Foundation (dentaquestfoundation.org) was established in 2000 with a mission to improve the oral health of all. The Foundation collaborates with partners in communities across the United States, connecting key stakeholders, raising awareness, and supporting solutions.

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