Eastman Dental Center Lands a $532K Grant for Teledentistry

December 11, 2007

Jahmeek Polland-Randolph, 4, opens wide for a teledentistry exam at Wilson Commencement Park daycare. A trained health specialist captures and views the image on the screen behind Jahmeek before sending it to Eastman Dental Center for evaluation.

Eastman Dental Center, at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has landed a five-year, $532,000 grant to explore teledentistry, a novel approach that uses an intraoral camera to image teeth and tooth surfaces. The grant was awarded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, of the National Institutes of Health.

Recent studies by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that tooth decay in young children’s baby teeth is on the rise. Early Childhood Caries is often an acute and debilitating form of tooth decay that, when caught too late, can only be treated in the operating room.

Over the next five years, more than 500 preschool children enrolled in six different inner city day care centers will be examined to determine if teledentistry is useful in identifying at-risk children before extensive treatment is needed. The children will receive an initial baseline exam, and then will be re-examined six and 12 months later.

Oral health problems are one of the leading causes of absenteeism from school – 52 million school hours are missed each year by children nationwide. Rochester has the highest rate of child poverty in New York, representing a significant challenge to improving overall health and well being.

“Intervention at an early age is critical,” said Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, DDS, MPH, who is leading the research effort. “Teledentistry can help more children by preventing and detecting early childhood tooth decay.”  This technology allows trained personnel to take and transfer digital pictures of a child’s mouth in day care or preschool so they can be reviewed by pediatric dentists remotely.  Providers can then recommend next steps and treatment for the child that may have otherwise not happened for months or years.

This effort follows Eastman Dental Center’s successful pilot teledentistry initiative last year, where more than 40 percent of the 200 children ages 1 to 5 screened at inner-city daycare centers had cavities and 95 percent of whom had never seen a dentist.

 This teledentistry initiative relies on infrastructure provided by Health-e-Access, the University of Rochester Medical Center/Golisano Children’s Hospital telemedicine program. Established in 2001 by two of the hospital’s pediatric faculty, Health-e-Access initially served five urban child care centers, allowing doctors, using a computer-internet connection in their offices, to diagnose and treat children with sore throats, ear aches, skin rashes and other common symptoms. Today, six years and 6,000 “visits” later, it has blossomed to include 19 urban and suburban elementary schools and child care sites.

 “Many parents mistakenly think that because baby teeth will fall out, taking care of them isn’t important,” said Kopycka-Kedzierawski. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Baby teeth play an important role as placeholders for permanent teeth, and if they are removed too early, adult teeth may become overcrowded or misaligned. When there is decay in baby teeth, there is a better chance of decay occurring in adult teeth.”

 A world leader in residency training and research initiatives, Eastman Dental Center each year treats thousands of Rochester-area patients by providing a full range of general and specialized dentistry including pediatrics, periodontology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and prosthodontics. Established in 1915, the Eastman Dental Center is the only major post doctoral dental education, research and clinical institution in the U.S. within an academic medical center. The legacy of George Eastman continues to thrive with its extensive community outreach program helping underserved residents.

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Karen Black
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