ECU Establishes Pediatric Prevent Dental Clinic
By Crystal Baity
ECU’s Brody School of Medicine has been awarded a $295,781 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to establish a pediatric preventive dental clinic for overweight children without access to dental care.
The program will be the first of its kind in the country and will serve as a model for the integration of dental care in pediatric subspecialty care of children with complex diseases, said Dr. Sara G. Grossi, a periodontist, research professor and director of the grant.
Patients will come from the ECU Pediatric Healthy Weight Research and Treatment Center, created in 2003 by the Department of Pediatrics.
“The program has the potential to improve the lives of hundreds of children in eastern North Carolina,” Grossi said. “Dental diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes are all lifestyle-associated conditions and as such amenable to prevention and early intervention.”
The pediatric preventive dental clinic will collaborate with the recently approved ECU School of Dentistry and will be integral to the education and training of new general and pediatric dentists.
Oral or dental infection and inflammation play an important role in increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes in overweight children. Higher levels of gingivitis have been detected in children and adolescents with diabetes compared to children of the same age without diabetes.
Bacteria from dental plaque that causes swollen, bleeding gums and gum pockets doesn’t just affect the tooth root but other parts of the body as well and has a significant negative effect in diabetes and the ability to control blood sugar, Grossi said.
An examination of 30 children from the ECU Pediatric Healthy Weight Research and Treatment Center clinic revealed that 50 percent had untreated dental cavities, 95 percent had gingivitis, 60 percent had bleeding gums, 19 percent had tartar build-up and 10 percent had juvenile periodontitis, an aggressive form of gum disease. The new clinic will provide preventive dental treatment to all overweight children who are either at risk or already have diabetes and heart disease. The program aims to reduce the levels of gingivitis and increase the number of healthy gums by 30 percent or more.