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AADR urges Congress to boost oral health research dollars

Group supports ADA request for $1 million targeted at caries in Native American children

Washington—Dental scientists urged Congress to increase the oral health research budget and to set aside $1 million a year to fight the early childhood caries described as "particularly common" in Native American communities.

Citing "exciting research under way and the potential to improve oral health," Dr. Marc Heft told a House appropriations panel that additional funds for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research would advance the use of saliva-based diagnostic tests for oral and other cancers, cardiovascular diseases and systemic conditions.

Early diagnosis and treatment are also key to "avoidance of the disfiguring surgery that may occur when malignancy is advanced and spread," Dr. Heft testified March 13. "NIDCR-funded research has produced a saliva test that can detect oral cancer, but further clinical studies are needed to produce and validate a diagnostic test with the accuracy required by the Food and Drug Administration.

"Imagine a world where disease can be detected at its earliest possible moment with quick, painless and non-invasive saliva-based tests," Dr. Heft testified on behalf of the American Association for Dental Research. "Imagine getting results from a test for oral cancer or systemic diseases without a two- or three-day wait, or going to the dentist for a mineral-restoring rinse instead of getting a filling. We would not only improve Americans' quality of life but save lives and better utilize the valuable resources currently burdening our health care system."

The AADR testimony also supported an American Dental Association request for $1 million a year for three years for research and clinical studies on early childhood caries in cooperation with the Indian Health Service.

"Early childhood caries is a painful, costly and severe form of tooth decay—an unfortunate reality for too many pre-school children in this country," Dr. Heft testified. "Unfortunately, early childhood caries is particularly common among Alaska Native/American Indian children -- with rates up to three times higher than those seen among other 2- to 5-year-olds."

Dr. Heft is professor and director of the Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and Diagnostic Sciences at the University of Florida. The mission of the 4,000-individual, 100-institutional member AADR is to advance research and increase knowledge for the improvement of oral health.