Tim Wright, DDS, MS, James Bawden Distinguished Professor, is part of a $35M effort from Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield South Carolina (BCBSSC) Foundation and the Duke Endowment to improve the oral health of Carolinians. While The Duke Endowment and BSBCNC Foundation focus on North Carolina, the BCBSSC Foundation will focus their endeavors in South Carolina.
The investment is earmarked to improve access to dental care for children and adults across the Carolinas with insufficient access to care.
The initiative will support a wide range of oral health care actions, including: improving oral health care for children, promoting evidence-based research and solutions, and incorporating care models that include oral health.
Wright will be specifically looking at reducing dental caries (cavities) in school age children from socioeconomic areas that are known to have poor access to oral health care and high caries levels.
“We are partnering with the Durham Country Public Health Department (DCPHD) to provide comprehensive oral health care to children in the Durham Country Schools using a combination of portable dental equipment, a mobile dental van and fixed clinics and facilities at the DCPHD and UNC Adams School of Dentistry,” said Wright.
“Clinically proven caries prevention approaches including fluoride toothpaste, sealants, silver diamine fluoride and fluoride varnish, will be used to help manage dental caries in these children. We also will use teledentistry with dental hygienists and dental assistants to create a more efficient care delivery system and improved ability to communicate with the children’s parents.”
“As a state institution, it is our duty to improve the lives of those living within the state of North Carolina,” said Associate Dean for Research, Shannon Wallet, PhD. “Dr. Wright’s initiative sponsored by the BCBSNC, BCBSSC, and Duke Endowment will do just that. Providing the children of North Carolina improved access to dental care, will not only allow for prevention and improvement of oral conditions such as cavities and gum diseases, but will promote the improvement of overall health.
“In particular, this initiative will increase oral health literacy and instill good habits in the next generations, which will result in improved long-term health outcomes and quality of life across their lifespan.”
More than four million individuals in North and South Carolina are living in areas without adequate access to oral health services. According to the American Dental Association, both states rank in the bottom third of all states in regards to the number of dentists per resident.
“Oral disease is highly preventable, yet millions living in North and South Carolina still suffer from it, affecting chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, as well as school and work attendance, health care costs, and overall quality of life,” said Stacy Warren, program officer for health care at The Duke Endowment.
“As philanthropists committed to improving health in our region, we recognize that oral health is closely tied to all aspects of wellbeing and an area of health where the opportunity to affect change is ripe.”