UF College of Dentistry Receives $1.2 Million Grant to Provide Dental Care to Underserved Children
The Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF) has provided the University of Florida College of Dentistry with a $1.2 million grant to continue the collaborative mission of improving the oral health of underserved children in Collier County.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. —The Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF) has provided the University of Florida College of Dentistry with a $1.2 million grant to continue the collaborative mission of improving the oral health of underserved children in Collier County.
The renewal for 2020-22 of the existing grant from NCEF, founders of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, will help sustain community-based prevention efforts at the college’s Naples-based pediatric dental center, the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center, where UF pediatric dental residents also provide oral health care to children from Collier County.
NCEF’s grant will support the dental center’s school-based dental sealant program in Collier County, the screening and fluoride varnish program and the center’s use of silver diamine fluoride (SDF) to help halt tooth decay. In addition, the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center will add atraumatic restorative technique (ART).
With NCEF’s support in these initiatives, the dental center envisions that the SMART approach will significantly reduce the high levels of untreated disease documented in Collier County the past 6 years, reduce the incident of urgent dental needs, and improve the health and well-being of children who experience high levels of dental disease.
The NCEF Pediatric Dental Center, located on Florida SouthWestern State College’s Collier County campus, opened its doors in 2008 and is one of UF’s five Florida dental centers. The pediatric dental center offers routine and specialty services for children ages birth to 21 in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified 20,000-square-foot facility.
Local philanthropists founded the Naples Children & Education Foundation in 2000 to address income disparities in Collier County that predominantly affect children. Contrary to the seaside haven of Naples, further inland in Collier County there are low-income and impoverished communities, including those of seasonal farmworkers in Immokalee, where families live on $9,496 to $24,556 a year, according to U.S. government data.
A 2005 study commissioned by the NCEF revealed a “catastrophic crisis in oral health” among Collier children. More than a third, around 17,000, had no access to basic dental care. At one elementary school, nearly 70% of students had untreated decay, and 18% had abscesses, swelling and other problems requiring immediate help.
Enter the collaboration between NCEF and the UF College of Dentistry, with support from Florida SouthWestern State College, area hospitals and state and local agencies. Fueled by a $4.5 million grant from the NCEF that was matched by the state to total $9 million, the state-of-the-art NCEF Pediatric Dental Center was born.
The dental center features a UF College of Dentistry pediatric residency training program and boasts multiple programs for community outreach and prevention. It has carved out a niche for children with special needs. To treat the most serious cases, the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center works with Physicians Regional and Lee Health to provide weekly access to operating rooms.