The patient was only 2 years old, but by the time he came to the Dental Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado, he had cavities in every one of his baby teeth. His dentist had to administer general anesthesia to repair the extensive decay, and the boy woke up hours later with 12 new fillings. Eight of his teeth were so decayed they couldn’t be saved – the dentist had to extract them completely.
It’s a situation that happens almost daily at Children’s Colorado, where dentists perform more than 2,000 dental treatments under general anesthesia every year. And now, with the help of Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, there may be fewer Colorado children who will suffer from the health consequences of tooth decay in the future. The organization recently established the Delta Dental of Colorado Endowed Chair in Pediatric Dentistry at Children’s Hospital Colorado – one of the first pediatric dentistry chairs in the nation – to help improve the oral health of Colorado’s youngest and most vulnerable residents.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic infection in children -- five times more common than asthma and 20 times more common than diabetes. It’s a problem so pervasive that the Center for Disease Control has named tooth decay a “silent epidemic” with grim consequences, including chronic pain, delayed development, missed school and eating difficulties. Oral health has been identified by Children’s Colorado as a top community health priority.
With the help of Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, Children’s Colorado is poised to tackle this silent epidemic head on. Intended to advance the study and practice of pediatric dentistry, the $2 million endowed chair will create a stable source of funding year after year. This will enable dental clinicians to fund critical solutions for patients today while planning for longer-term oral health research advances, prevention and education strategies, as well as training programs for new dentists.
“When you are a child with rampant tooth decay, there are many things you can’t do,” said Barbara Springer, executive director of the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation. “You can’t eat right. You can’t sleep right. You can’t learn all the things that are critical to pick up during those early years. We believe that if you can prevent tooth decay, you can truly change the trajectory of a child’s life.”
Dr. Ulrich Klein, Chairman of the departments of pediatric dentistry at Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine for the past decade, serves as the inaugural chair. Previously, he also directed the pediatric dentistry residency program, which has graduated more than 80 residents since he first came to Children’s Colorado in 2003. Dr. Klein believes that the Delta Dental gift has the power to transform pediatric oral health care and teaching at Children's Colorado.
“We are facing a nationwide shortage in pediatric dentistry faculty,” explained Dr. Klein. “This gift is an investment in the future of teaching because it helps to create career development opportunities for young faculty members.”
Investing in the next generation of academic pediatric dentists is one reason that Dr. Klein is grateful for the Delta Dental gift. The other reason is simple: the kids.
“We are a lifeline for patients who cannot find dental care elsewhere due to their complex medical needs,” said Dr. Klein. “This gift will change many children’s lives for the better.”