USC University of Southern California

Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC Receives Nearly $18.4 Million Grant from First 5 LA

Over the next five years, the First 5 LA grant will allow the Ostrow School of Dentistry to connect nearly 46,000 disadvantaged children ages five and under to dental care.

First 5 LA has announced that the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC will receive nearly $18.4 million in grant funds in support of its dental care outreach to young children.

The grant, the largest in the school’s history, will enable the Ostrow School of Dentistry’s Community Oral Health Programs to help nearly 46,000 disadvantaged children and their families over the next five years.

The programs established and expanded by the grant will identify children ages zero to five, implement oral health education and oral disease prevention programs, assess dental treatment needs, assist families in enrolling in insurance programs and finding affordable dental clinics, contribute to the operation of two community dental clinics and provide sedation services at those sites, conduct dental public health research, and train dentists and other healthcare professionals in providing preventive services and dental care to very young children.

“Improving children’s dental health in L.A. County has been a major priority for First 5 LA,” said Kim Belshé, Executive Director of First 5 LA. “The USC grant will be addressing many of the critical oral health needs of children zero to five years of age.”

Of special importance is the goal of helping children and their families find “dental homes,” affordable dental offices that families will visit regularly for care and prevention, said Roseann Mulligan, Associate Dean for Community Health Programs and Hospital Affairs at the Ostrow School of Dentistry.

Mulligan noted that the impact of poor dental health on children in Los Angeles is extremely significant. An earlier Ostrow study found that nearly 73 percent of disadvantaged children in LA have active caries, the disease responsible for tooth decay. Another USC study found that kids who reported having recent tooth pain were four times more likely to have a low grade point average and missed significantly more school each year than children without dental problems.

“If we can give families with young children information about oral health and help them locate dental homes, we can use education and prevention to stop disease before it starts instead of repairing the damage,” Mulligan said.

Achieving this goal will involve diverse teams of dental professionals, other health professionals, “promotora” lay health educators, social workers, and benefits enrollment experts; many team members will be faculty, staff, and students from USC. The teams will travel throughout Los Angeles, working with families at WIC centers, Head Start centers, and other community facilities in order to connect them to health care.

Grant funds will also be used to operate a new dental facility at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center Hub Clinic run by the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) for children in foster care. The clinic will serve approximately 15,000 children who receive medical care at the VIP Hub. The grant will also provide funds for the Ostrow School of Dentistry to develop and implement a sedation program at a dental clinic run by the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center.

Various educational outreach efforts will be funded by the grant, including programs to teach primary care physicians and nurses to spot potential oral health problems and programs to educate general dentists on the special dental issues that very young children can have. Also, the Ostrow School of Dentistry’s Pediatric Dentistry postdoctoral residency program will admit two additional residents each year that will serve in the school’s affiliated community clinics and hospitals during their residency and increase the number of pediatric dentists with experience and enthusiasm for serving the underserved in California.

First 5 LA oversees the L.A. County allocation of funds from Proposition 10, which added a 50-cent tax on tobacco products sold in California. Funds raised help pay for health care, education and child development programs for children from the prenatal stage to age five and their families. First 5 LA’s mission is to increase the number of young children who are physically and emotionally healthy, safe, and ready to learn.