Dr. Steven Offenbacher, the OraPharma distinguished professor of periodontal medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, has been named the recipient of the 2006 Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research.
The Ross Award, sponsored by the American Dental Association through the ADA Foundation, recognizes scientists whose clinical research has had a meaningful influence on clinical dentistry. Pfizer Consumer Healthcare provides support for the award. Offenbacher will receive the award, and the accompanying plaque and $5,000, at a special dinner with the ADA Board of Trustees in August.
“Dr. Offenbacher has made tremendous contributions to clinical research and is an international leader in showing the relationship between oral and systemic disease,” said Dr. John N. Williams, dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry. “He is a pioneer in periodontal medicine, and his research is making and will continue to make a real difference in the day-to-day lives of people worldwide.”
Offenbacher, also director of the Center for Oral and Systemic Diseases, based in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, has been a member of the dental school’s faculty since 1990.
“It is an honor for me to receive the award on behalf of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry and the many people within our Center for Oral and Systemic Diseases,” Offenbacher said. “I am proud to represent the dedicated, hard-working and talented research team that has made these scientific contributions that are being recognized by the American Dental Association.”
He is a past recipient of the International Association for Dental Research’s Basic Research in Periodontal Disease Award and is the first dental scientist to receive the national Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies’ Special Impact Award.
His research focuses on several areas, including the relationship of periodontal disease to premature birth, heart disease, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Offenbacher is the principal investigator on a five-year, multi-site study focusing on whether or not tooth cleaning performed on expectant mothers decreases the rate of preterm deliveries at fewer than 37 weeks and also what effect maternal tooth cleaning may have on the birth weight of infants born at fewer than 37 weeks gestation.
In January 2006, CIGNA Dental began covering periodontal scaling and root planing taking place during pregnancy at 100 percent for eligible Oral Health Maternity Program members. For other pregnant members not requiring these procedures, the company covers an additional cleaning during pregnancy. The company covers pregnant women’s treatment for inflamed gums around wisdom teeth at 100 percent.
“This policy change by a major insurance carrier is just the beginning of what I perceive as a revolution in dental medicine, and its impact has changed forever the public reception of oral health and how it relates to general health,” wrote Dr. Kenneth Krebs, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, in his letter nominating Offenbacher for the award.
The Ross Award is given in memory of Dr. Norton M. Ross, a dentist and pharmacologist who contributed significantly to oral medicine and dental clinical research.