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NYU College of Dentistry Researchers Awarded the ADA's Samuel D. Harris Grant for Children's Dental Health

Professor Jill Fernandez
New York University Colleges of Dentistry and Nursing researchers were awarded a $5K grant from the American Dental Association’s Samuel D. Harris Fund for Children’s Dental Health Grants Program. The researchers, Dr. Lily Lim (principal investigator), a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatric Dentistry and Director of the Advanced Program for International Dentists in Pediatric Dentistry; Professor Jill Fernandez (co-investigator), a Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry and Director of Pediatric Outreach Programs from the College of Dentistry; and Dr. Donna Hallas (co-investigator), a Clinical Associate Professor of Nursing and Coordinator of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program from the College of Nursing, developed a proposal entitled: “Interdisciplinary Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Early Childhood Caries: Implementation of a Postnatal Educational Program and Follow-up Interventions to Establish a Dental Home in the First Year of Life.”

In their grant proposal, the researchers note that Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is the most prevalent unmet healthcare need among children 71 months old or younger, with significant health disparities in oral health care for children below five years old. Untreated dental caries among African-American children 6 to 8 years of age was 36%, and for Hispanic children untreated dental caries was 43% as compared to white children who are at 26%.

To effectively combat this national epidemic, the researchers are proposing an interdisciplinary collaborative approach to the education of parents of newborns prior to hospital discharge.

“Our interdisciplinary team will consist of pediatric dentists, pediatric residents and general dental students at New York University College of Dentistry working collaboratively with newborn and pediatric nurses, pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) and PNP students from New York University College of Nursing at the College of Dentistry,” said Dr. Lim. “This project will introduce newborn and pediatric practicing nurses to interdisciplinary educational strategies for implementation on the postpartum unit for parents of newborns to reduce the incidence of ECC,” she said.

The 16-month project begins with the implementation of an interdisciplinary and culturally sensitive oral health educational program for parents of newborns. Follow-up assessments of the health status of the infants will be performed to determine the impact of the educational program at 6 and 12 months. Lastly, the researchers will be assessing the impact of the educational program by the number of parents who have established a dental home by the infant’s first birthday.

The researchers anticipate enrolling at least 30 mothers each week with a total population of 180 infants in the control group and 180 infants in the intervention group. They anticipate that the total educational program will reach around 5000 parents of newborns and about 200 infants who were in the in-patient pediatric unit over the one-year time frame.

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