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Delta Dental Foundation Grant to Aid 700 Children through IU Dental School's Seal Indiana Program


November 4, 2010

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A $50,000 grant that is the latest in a series of donations the Delta Dental Foundation has made to Indiana University School of Dentistry’s Seal Indiana program will enable 700 Hoosier schoolchildren and preschoolers to receive examinations and preventive treatment aimed at preserving the oral health of youngsters who are the most at risk for dental disease in Indiana.

The Delta Dental Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization that serves as the philanthropic arm of the dental benefits provider Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. The foundation has contributed nearly a quarter million dollars to the IU dental school’s preventive dentistry program since 2007.

“The foundation’s support plays a significant role in our ability to serve children in need statewide, and we are grateful,” said Dr. Karen Yoder, IU’s director of Community Dentistry. “Last year, Delta Dental funded about 20 percent of the 2,100 children who participated in Seal Indiana.”

The most recent grant will be used to fund preventive services for children who do not have access to dental care by any other means.

“Improving oral health is a vital part of our mission,” said Dr. Jed Jacobson, chief science officer and senior vice president of Delta Dental of Indiana. “Dental disease is a growing problem in at-risk children, but it is something that can easily be prevented. Proper treatment and routine dental examinations plus proven cost-effective preventive services like sealants will go a long way in helping to provide healthy, happy smiles.”

Seal Indiana is the only nonprofit mobile dental sealant program serving Indiana statewide. The IU School of Dentistry launched this initiative in 2003 with start-up funds from IUPUI and the Indiana State Department of Health. Since then, the school’s faculty and students have been traveling in small teams to schools and Head Start programs throughout the state year-round to conduct dental examinations on children from low-income families, providing them with fluoride treatments and placing protective sealants on vulnerable surfaces of their teeth, as needed.

Seal Indiana is unique in that it is helping to meet the oral healthcare needs of Indiana’s youth while also teaching the young men and women who will compose Indiana’s future dental workforce the importance of being responsive to the dental needs of people in their communities when they become healthcare providers.

Dental students in their fourth and final year of study fulfill a community-based clinical rotation by serving in the program, and there are many other opportunities during the year for dental and dental hygiene students to volunteer their services through other outreach efforts such as dental visits to community shelters for homeless persons and victims of domestic violence. Through Seal Indiana, the students learn about issues related to disparities in access to care and the legislative processes that lead to the establishment of health policy.

Seal Indiana has now cared for more than 20,000 children at more than 245 unduplicated sites in every region of Indiana, and has made more than a thousand visits to Indiana’s Title I schools. Title I schools have the largest number of children from low-income families – and, as Seal Indiana has found, an exceedingly high incidence of dental disease among their students as well.

Between 2003 and 2009, 51 percent of the 6- to 13-year-old children examined by Seal Indiana had untreated dental disease, including 17 percent in need of immediate follow-up care. “We have to keep working to reduce those statistics,” said Yoder. “The more youngsters we can reach through programs like Seal Indiana, the more successful the dental profession can be in tackling an often painful disease that can interfere with a child’s health, self-esteem, quality of life, and school performance.”

In the past year, Seal Indiana has teamed up with the Indiana Dental Association through the American Dental Association’s “Give Kids a Smile” charitable program to begin identifying Hoosier dentists who will agree to donate their services to Seal Indiana children whose dental decay requires immediate restorative treatment.

Medicaid covers the Seal Indiana fees for slightly more than half of the preventive services through Hoosier Healthwise enrollments, and the program also receives substantial support from the Indiana State Department of Health, but grants from other government agencies and corporate foundations are essential to keep the wheels of Seal Indiana rolling throughout the state.

“Our partnership with the Delta Dental Foundation is helping us meet Seal Indiana’s goal of identifying and assisting families at greatest risk for – and hardest hit by – poor oral health,” said Yoder.

Located on the Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis campus, the Indiana University School of Dentistry is one of the oldest dental schools in the United States and has more than 11,500 living alumni who are pursuing careers throughout the nation and in about 30 other countries. The only dental school in Indiana, it has educated about 85 percent of Indiana dentists.