DentaQuest grants $500K for Md. dental health

The DentaQuest Foundation will donate more than $500,000 to improve the oral health of Maryland children.

The foundation will give $331,343 to the University of Maryland for the promotion of oral health literacy and another $202,886 to create a Maryland Dental Action Coalition.

In 2006, more than one-third of Maryland kindergarteners and third-graders had untreated decay in their primary teeth, while more than 70% of children in the state's Medicaid program have never seen a dentist, according to a 2007 survey by the Maryland Family Health Administration cited by DentaQuest.

Both grants support a twofold strategy for raising oral health awareness, particularly within low-income populations and communities of color. Researchers at the University of Maryland's School of Public Health will survey 4,000 parents and healthcare providers for their knowledge, opinions, and practices about preventive oral health, then use the information gathered to develop an oral health literacy intervention model for use in Maryland and other states.

Grant funds will also be used to establish the Maryland Dental Action Coalition, an independent advocacy organization that will implement the oral health literacy plan throughout the state. The coalition will work with an array of organizations -- ranging from policymakers, healthcare providers, hospital groups, and educational entities to child welfare advocacies -- to prioritize oral health as a critical component of health and to promote community and statewide solutions.

"Currently, there isn't a single organization in the state that can coordinate an evidence-based oral health literacy campaign that focuses on reducing oral health disparities," said Harry Goodman, D.D.S., M.P.H., director of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of Oral Health. "With these grants, the DentaQuest Foundation has really stepped up at a time when we know there's a problem, and there's tremendous willingness to do something about it, but the public resources simply aren't available."

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