Forsyth Institute launches search

Aug. 21, 2001
The Forsyth Institute today launched a search for an estimated half million Boston area residents who received dental care on the institute's premises, as children.

The Forsyth Institute today launched a search for an estimated half million Boston area residents who received dental care on the institute�s premises, as children.

Since its founding in 1910 as a clinic offering free dental care for children, Forsyth has taken leadership positions in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the major diseases that affect oral health. Today, Forsyth conducts groundbreaking research in areas such as genetics, bone formation, microbiology, birth defects, and vaccines for dental decay.

Through an upcoming "Forsyth Kids" search campaign, the Institute aims to reconnect with and engage its former patients in advocacy for children�s oral health�which has been declared in "crisis" by both the Massachusetts Legislature and the U.S. Surgeon General.

According to "The Oral Health Crisis in Massachusetts: Report of the Special Legislative Commission on Oral Health" (February 2000), every year in this country, children lose about 632,000 school days due to oral health problems. Local assessments suggest that higher rates of dental decay seen nationally among low-income children are also evident in the Commonwealth. In Cambridge, Lawrence and Boston, 38-48 percent of low-income children need restorative dental care. Students at one Boston high school have four times as many cavities as the national average, and many low-income residents of the Commonwealth receive no dental care at all.

If left untreated, oral disease can lead to serious overall health problems, according to Dominick DePaola, DDS, PhD, Forsyth�s president and chief executive officer. "It is crucial that we call attention to the need for funding and legislation to improve the state of children�s oral health," DePaola said.

Background on the Forsyth Kids

From 1914 until the late-1960s, nearly a half million children, aged 5-14, were transported from Boston area public and parochial schools to what was then known as the Forsyth Dental Infirmary for Children. Interns, students, and professionals from a variety of oral health specialties provided treatments, including dental cleanings, fillings, orthodontics, extractions and, early in the century, cleft palate operations and tonsillectomies. Students at what is now known as the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists also provided oral health services. Thousands of additional children received free care in return for participating in oral health studies.

Celebrity "Kids"

One well-known "Forsyth Kid" was Mayor Thomas Menino, who received Forsyth dental care when he was a student in the Boston Public Schools.

"Forsyth taught me the importance of good dental care," said Mayor Menino. "It's crucial that our kids get the oral health care they need. Not only because dental care is important for overall health, but we all know how hard it is to pay attention in school when you have a toothache.

Forsyth offered great public health advances at a time when children from low-income families had few treatments. Although their focus has changed, we salute Forsyth's continuing effort to ensure that kids have the care they need."

Among other community notables who came to Forsyth as kids are Boston Red Sox president and CEO John Harrington and his wife Maureen.

The Search

Forsyth hopes to locate former patients who came from more than 55 public and parochial schools in Boston and surrounding communities, DePaola said. Those communities included, among others: Allston, Belmont, Boston, Brighton, Cambridge, Charlestown, Chelsea, Dorchester, East Boston, Jamaica Plain, Malden, Mattapan, Medford, Melrose, North End, Quincy, Revere, Roslindale, Roxbury, Somerville, South End, South Boston, Stoneham, Watertown, West End, and West Roxbury.

Forsyth would also like to find former patients who were referred by other institutions and organizations. Although some no longer exist, these include, among others: Associated Charities; Baby Hygiene Association; Boston City Hospital; Boston Dispensary; Bunker Hill Boys� Club; Carney Hospital; Children�s Mission to Children; Dorchester Industrial School; Heart Hospital; City of Boston Play Grounds; Horace Mann School; Industrial School for Crippled and Deformed Children; Jewish Welfare Center; Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary; Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; Massachusetts Homeopathic Hospital; and the South End House.

Search plan and outcome:

The search for the Forsyth Kids will involve advertising, contact with community, social, professional, and alumni organizations, and word of mouth, according to Dorothy Allen, vice president for Development and Public Relations at Forsyth.

Forsyth Kids will be invited to help kick off a new initiative for children�s oral health at a major event on October 14, 2001, at which further details will be announced.