Newswise — ST. LOUIS – Children with complex medical conditions and those who are just in need of a regular teeth cleaning will soon have a new program devoted to their care.

Saint Louis University’s Center for Advanced Dental Education (CADE) will begin a pediatric dentistry residency program on July 1, 2017. The program, six years in the making, received initial accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation in February.

SLU’s pediatric program is the only residency program of its kind in eastern Missouri or southern Illinois.

The two-year graduate program provides dentists an opportunity to study and receive clinical experience in treating children. Residents learn advanced diagnostic and surgical procedures, along with oral pathology, child-related pharmacology, radiology, child development, management of oral/facial trauma, care for patients with special needs, conscious sedation and general anesthesia.

CADE currently offers specialty training in endodontics (root canals), orthodontics (braces) and periodontics (treatment of gum disease and implants).

“We are really excited to get this program started – it will be tremendous for the region,” said John Hatton, DMD, executive director of CADE. “There are so many children in the area that have nowhere to go for their dental needs.”

Hatton said early intervention is important in dental health.

“Through CADE’s other programs, a person can have a tooth extracted instead of a root canal, not replace a missing tooth with an implant and function without braces,” Hatton said. “And now, with our new pediatric dentistry program, we can intervene early to improve a child’s oral health, which makes a difference for the rest of their life.”

SLU’s program will admit three students in its first year and another three the following year. Applicants must have a strong academic background and clinical skills, as well as a passion for working with children.

“Pediatric dentistry is more than just being child-friendly,” said Dan Stoeckel D.D.S., MS, pediatric dentistry graduate program director. “You have to enjoy working with kids and also work within the growth and development of a child’s mouth. Children can have extensive needs that are not the same as those of an adult patient.”

Residents admitted to the program will serve patients in a clinical setting at CADE and, when necessary, perform dental care under general anesthesia at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.

“We will treat the patients of general pediatrics and the specialty clinics of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, as well as provide a dental home for children from birth to age 12,” Stoeckel said.

SLUCare physicians at Danis Pediatric Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital will directly refer low-income patients to the pediatric dental clinic for regular cleanings and checkups.

“Small steps to improve oral hygiene can have a big impact on overall health,” Stoeckel said. “We will work with our patients to create a personalized preventative care plan for oral health.”

The clinic will also care for children with additional medical needs, ranging from those with blood disorders and cancer patients, to patients who have autism and Down syndrome.

“Residents will see patients with needs ranging from basic cleanings to complicated restorative dentistry,” Stoeckel said. “They also will learn how to manage patients that come into the clinic with a high level of anxiety.”

The residents also will provide on-call emergency dentistry coverage at Cardinal Glennon.

In February 2016, the Glennon Guild donated $50,000 to support the renovation and equipping of the Pediatric Dental clinic at the Center for Advanced Dental Education. The clinic opened Nov. 30.

“I think once we have the residents on board we will be able to see 5,500 patients a year, with 1,800 of those being unique visitors,” Stoeckel said.

Appointments are now being accepted for late summer at 314-977-PEDO (7336). All forms of Missouri and Illinois Medicaid are accepted.

The Center for Advanced Dental Education’s mission is to achieve the highest level of excellence in scholarship and patient care while educating dentists in the specialties of orthodontics (tooth straightening), endodontics (root canal treatment), periodontics (gum disease therapy) and pediatric dentistry. The center aims to serve its students, the profession of dentistry, the community of St. Louis, and the communities in which the graduates of CADE will practice their dental specialty.