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Forsyth Scientists Wiping Out Tooth Decay Through School-based Cavities Prevention Program

Today, during the 85th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research, Forsyth Institute scientists are reporting that they have developed an effective program for eliminating cavities. //This program, called ForsythKids, is an innovative school-based cavity prevention program, which provides elementary school children with oral health education, dental exams, cleanings and preventive care. For children enrolled in the program, one round of treatment reduced new cavities by 50%. After two rounds of the Forsyth model of prevention there was virtually no new tooth decay.

ForsythKids confronts one of today’s most pressing oral health challenges: delivering effective oral health care to children at risk of decay. The goal of the program is to increase access and improve health, while creating a model that can be replicated in any community. The elementary school children enrolled in ForsythKids receive a dental exam, tooth cleaning, preventive care consisting of sealants, fluoride, temporary fillings when necessary, and oral health education two times a year without ever leaving their school.

Of the children enrolled in the pilot program, 77% had untreated cavities and 13% had acute infections or abscesses. "Our initial studies have shown that you can effectively prevent, what is today, the most common childhood disease – tooth decay," said Richard Niederman, DMD, Director, Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry at The Forsyth Institute. "Just two weeks ago we saw a terrible tragedy in the national news about a tooth infection that led to the untimely death of a 12-year old boy, who like thousands of other children, did not have access to dental care. Through programs like the ForsythKids we can eliminate barriers to care and improve the health of all children."

The ForsythKids program began as a pilot in two elementary schools in each of three Massachusetts communities: Lynn, Hyannis and Boston. Today, the ForsythKids p rogram is also being rolled out in ten additional communities with a goal of reaching 20,000 children by the end of 2007.

When viewed next to the goals set by Healthy People 2010, a national health promotion and disease prevention initiative managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the ForsythKids program has already met and exceeded those goals in a period of 3 years.

Healthy People 2010 Goals
Reduce cavities by 10%
· Reduce untreated decay by 5%
· Increase children with sealants by 23%

Program Evaluation

Data were collected from 1,196 children from grades 1, 2, and 3 attending six Massachusetts schools over a three-year period (2003-2006). A total of 2,247 patient visits were conducted. Complete information on oral health with emphasis on dental caries experience was collected as part of a professional examination. Four treatments were provided, the latter two based on need:

1. Prophylaxis + fluoride varnish application
2. Oral hygiene plus toothbrush and fluoride containing toothpaste
3. Occlusal sealants
4. A simplified and modified filling that requires no drilling

Analysis of collected data showed that a reduction in new decay in primary teeth of 51% was achieved after a single preventative treatment. A second treatment reduced new decay to almost zero. There were also significant reductions in decay for permanent teeth.

These results suggest that on a population basis, decay can be eliminated in primary teeth and greatly reduced in permanent teeth.


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