Leaders aim to improve nation's dental care delivery system

Institute for Oral Health is launched to advance innovations.

SEATTLE--Each year tens of millions of dollars are invested in oral health research and innovations, but it often takes many years before the results reach most dental offices or impact patient care. 

An Institute for Oral Health launched by health-care leaders intends to bridge this gap.

Headquartered in Seattle, the Institute was formed to accelerate the development and adoption of progressive treatment guidelines and delivery methods for health care policy makers, the dental profession and the public. The Institute's mission is to increase the use of innovations that will make the U.S. dental care system more effective, more cost efficient and widely accessible.

"The Institute for Oral Health is a new voice for advancing dental care delivery," said Cathye Smithwick, IOH advisory faculty member and Principal with Mercer Health and Benefits. "It's the first time nationally-recognized experts from academia, dental research and public health have joined with commercial dental carriers and purchasers in a public forum to advance how dental care is delivered."

The Institute is advised by a diverse group of health care leaders from around the country who are committed to improving the nation's dental care delivery system.

They include Howard L. Bailit, D.M.D., PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Connecticut Health Center;Burton L. Edelstein, D.D.S., M.P.H., Professor of Dentistry and Health Policy & Management, Columbia University; Alonzo L. Plough, Ph.D., M.P.H., Vice President of Program, Planning and Evaluation at The California Endowment; and Cathye Smithwick, R.D.H., M.A., Principal and dental consulting practice leader at Mercer Health & Benefits, San Jose, Calif.

The Institute for Oral Health will apply the knowledge gained from scientific research, and the insight from data analysis, to recommend options to overcome the barriers to efficient and effective dental care delivery and drive change by:

* Filling the gap that exists between research-and-development institutions and real world dental practice;
* Cutting the time it takes to transfer innovations from academic research to the dental chair and positively impact oral health; and
* Facilitating the adoption of innovations by health care policy makers, dental care providers and the insurance community.

The Institute will make research and data accessible as a resource to government agencies, universities, benefits companies, dental professionals, dental benefits purchasers and the public. It will also collaborate with other organizations to support public policies that advance oral health.

"Oral health is an essential component of overall health," said Howard Bailit, D.M.D., Ph.D. "That's why we need to make greater efforts to speed the adoption of new and more effective treatment technologies to dental practitioners and educators."

Initial funding for the Institute was provided through a grant from Washington Dental Service, a member of the Delta Dental Plans Association. Additional information on the Institute can be found at www.institutefororalhealth.org.

The Institute for Oral Health is sponsoring its first national conference November 13-14 with a special focus on improving children's dental care.

Conference on Early Childhood Dental Care
November 13-14, 2006
Grand Hyatt Seattle -- Seattle, Washington

For more information about the conference, please visit: www.institutefororalhealth.org.

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