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Dental study to test referral follow-through

February 02, 2015

By Craig Palmer

Cleveland – Dental researchers will test "an innovative behavioral approach" with 660 parents and caregivers of kindergarten-through-fourth-grade children to assess follow-through on dental referrals to "determine if the child received care."

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in Cleveland and the University of Washington Northwest Center to Reduce Oral Health Disparities in Seattle plan to launch and test a behavioral intervention this fall to address "misperceptions" some parents may have that dental care for baby teeth isn't important because they just fall out anyhow.

A letter and dental guide for parents and caregivers will focus on dispelling childhood dental myths, Case Western Reserve University said in a press release headlined, "Contrary to popular belief, dental care for baby teeth is vital." The materials will be sent to study participants who have children in elementary schools in East Cleveland, Ohio, and the state of Washington. These are newer study sites than those designated when the project was first funded with a federal research grant.

Suchitra Nelson, Ph.D., professor of community dentistry, will lead the $1.6 million, two and a half year study funded by the National Institute of Dental Research. She is working with Dr. Gerald Ferretti, chair of the department of pediatric dentistry; Jeffrey Albert, Ph.D., professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Medicine; Wonik Lee, Ph.D., assistant professor in community dentistry; Dr. Peter Milgrom, professor of dental public health sciences and pediatric dentistry at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, and Christine Riedy, Ph.D., lecturer at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

"We have an opportunity to change the public health standard of practice with this new referral letter and educational materials," Dr. Nelson said.