Insurer, research institute join forces to improve oral health

June 10, 2003
First United States evidence-based dentistry center to be created

One of the nation's largest dental insurers and an international research institute have formed a strategic alliance to improve oral health across the nation.

The partnership was announced today by DSM and The Forsyth Institute. DSM provides Delta Dental Plan benefits in Massachusetts. The Forsyth Institute is an independent scientific research organization based in Boston.

The DSM-Forsyth Alliance will conduct clinical demonstration projects aimed at improving oral health in all segments of society. DSM will provide funding to help support the Alliance's first three years of operation. Forsyth clinical care and research teams will direct the projects.

A key goal of the Alliance is to bring proven new therapies and techniques to practice more rapidly, thus enhancing the quality of care and making high quality care more available.

"Scientific knowledge about oral health is increasing at an exponential rate, yet it can take 20 years or more for new knowledge to be incorporated into clinical practice and for these proven treatments to be covered by dental benefit providers," said DSM President and CEO Kathy O'Loughlin, DMD, MPH. "We need to close that gap if we are going to improve the quality of patient care. This is a key objective of this initiative."

Forsyth President and CEO Dominick P. DePaola, DDS, PhD, added, "The alliance is a significant step toward moving research findings into the hands of practicing dentists quickly. We look forward to applying Forsyth's scientific and clinical expertise in this major initiative to improve the oral health of the nation."

The Alliance will establish the DSM-Forsyth Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry (CEBD) and provide partial funding for the Forsyth Center for Children's Oral Health (CCOH), which was recently created to address the need for a "best practices" approach to prevention and care of oral disease in children.

DSM-Forsyth Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry -- As the umbrella organization of the Alliance, CEBD's central goal will be to increase the use of high-quality evidence in patient care. To that end, CEBD will conduct clinical demonstration trials and clinical research; compile and distill international clinical evidence into useable knowledge; provide dentists with access to the best evidence; and offer educational opportunities for corporations and health professionals seeking to integrate evidence-based outcomes into their health care programs. CEBD will also conduct research to identify effective new technologies.

Housed at Forsyth, this Center is the first in the United States to focus on evidence-based dentistry.

Forsyth Center for Children's Oral Health -- The Forsyth Center for Children's Oral Health will develop and carry out demonstration projects that integrate school-based outreach, clinical care, evidence-based dentistry, economic analysis, and scientific discovery in a comprehensive "wellness" model of care. The goal is to keep children free of oral disease.

CCOH's first project will be a three-year pilot program based in four Massachusetts public elementary schools. Slated to begin in September 2003, the program will provide and assess innovative oral health prevention and treatment programs in Lynn and Hyannis -- cities in which, studies have shown, children have substantial oral health needs.

If the pilot program proves effective, the Alliance will seek partners to initiate similar programs throughout Massachusetts and in other states. "We hope that the successful prevention and treatment methods used in this program will be adopted by individuals and practitioners worldwide," said Robert Compton, DDS, Chief Dental Officer at DSM.

The announcement comes in the wake of a recent "Call to Action" in which the US Surgeon General highlighted the need to create "critical partnerships to engage in programs to promote oral health and prevent disease."

With goals of improving the quality of care, increasing access to cost-effective care, and shortening the time it takes to bring new knowledge and effective products into routine clinical practice, "the Alliance programs provide a response to that call," said Richard Niederman, DMD, Director of the DSM-Forsyth CEBD.

Dr. Robert E. Boose, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Dental Society, called the new initiatives "good for dentistry, good for the dentists of Massachusetts, and, most importantly, good for the dental consumer."

In DePaola's words: "The Alliance will be a vital resource for the dental practice, insurance, education, research, clinical care, and consumer communities."