Delta Dental of Massachusetts announced today that it is awarding a $5 million endowment to the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. The funds will be used to create a named academic chair in public health and community service, improve care and access to dental care for persons with special needs and other underserved populations, and expand Tufts' use of a clinical database to create best practices for dental treatment guidelines for persons with special needs.
The endowed chair in public health and community service will develop programs that will increase early diagnosis, provide risk assessment, and improve overall oral health services for underserved and special needs populations, including people with disabilities, HIV/AIDS, and survivors of violence. A specialized database will enable practitioners to unify electronic dental records and practice management systems at eight clinics for the Tufts Dental Facilities for Persons with Special Needs located across Massachusetts.
"Thousands of Massachusetts residents with special needs lack oral health care for a myriad of reasons, including a lack of professionals who truly understand their unique medical and social needs," said Dr. Kathleen O'Loughlin, President and CEO of Dental Service of Massachusetts, doing business as Delta Dental of Massachusetts. "Tufts Dental Facilities for Persons with Special Needs is unique in this country and the endowment will enable that program to expand its leadership and care to people in great need. Additionally, data will be collected and analyzed to help refine care guidelines and assist practitioners in effectively treating persons with special needs."
Low-income and minority populations, including individuals with disabilities, victims of violence, and those who are elderly or homeless, are less likely to have access to adequate dental care and are at high-risk for dental and oral diseases that, in turn, create additional health problems. The Tufts Dental Facilities for Persons with Special Needs, headquartered at the Fernald School, was established in 1976 and has eight clinics, run through a contract with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which serve more than 15,000 patients with mild to severe disabilities each year. It is a cornerstone in the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine's community outreach and public service work which also includes extensive work with people with HIV/AIDS and survivors of domestic violence, preventative care for students at area schools, and humanitarian missions.
"The Delta Dental endowment will enable Tufts Dental School to increase community outreach and service to underserved populations and advance evidence-based programs to diagnose and intercept oral disease in these populations," said Lonnie Norris, DMD, MPH, Dean of the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (Boston). "Community service and public health are at the heart of the mission of Tufts Dental School and are integrated into the teaching curriculum. Historically, there have been limited funds to address access to dental care, and our faculty, staff and students are grateful to Delta Dental for its support of our shared vision to address these disparities."
"This endowment addresses the needs of a severely underserved segment of our communities," O'Loughlin said. "Improving oral health care services for individuals with special needs remains one of our highest priorities."
Delta Dental of Massachusetts is the largest provider of dental benefits in the state. Delta Dental strives to achieve better quality of life for all through the universal attainment of optimal oral health. In order to attain this goal, Delta Dental established the Oral Health Foundation in January 2000 to provide grants to qualified community organizations. Delta Dental is looking towards the future to find new, innovative, and sustainable ways to achieve its objectives.