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Pediatric oral health center opens in Seattle

Seattle—The University of Washington and Seattle Children’s hospital Sept. 1 launched a new joint venture that encompasses clinical care, research, education and public policy in pediatric oral health care.

Cutting the ribbon Aug. 27 at the new Center for Pediatric Dentistry
Cutting the ribbon Aug. 27 at the new Center for Pediatric Dentistry are, from left, Susan Dreyfus, secretary, Washington state Department of Social and Health Services; Dr. Joel Berg, director, Center for Pediatric Dentistry; and Dr. Martha Somerman, dean, University of Washington School of Dentistry.

Built with private funds, the $21 million Center for Pediatric Dentistry addresses childhood dental disease with new approaches, including a strong focus on early intervention with dental visits by age 1. Medical professional training—especially for pediatricians—will take place here. A goal of 30,000 patient visits has been set for the first year and 40,000 thereafter. Research will include risk assessment technology, genetic factors, salivary composition and other areas.

The center stems from collaboration between Dr. Joel Berg, chair of the UW Department of Pediatric Dentistry and director of the new program; Seattle Children’s; the UW; and Washington Dental Service and the Washington Dental Service Foundation. A $5 million gift from WDS and its Foundation in 2007 launched construction, while Seattle Children’s contributed $1.5 million and other resources. The UW issued revenue bonds to finance the rest of the cost of renovating the World War II-era building, which has been named the Washington Dental Service Building for Early Childhood Oral Health.

“We are seeing an alarming increase in early childhood caries,” said Dr. Berg, also the vice president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. “It is truly a national health crisis. This trend, coupled with a shortage of pediatric dentists, educational facilities and integrated policy approach, was the primary reason and driving force behind the formation of the Center for Pediatric Dentistry.”

“The Center for Pediatric Dentistry will serve as a leader in early childhood oral health, working to improve the health of children throughout the region, the country and the world,” said Tom Hansen, M.D., CEO of Seattle Children’s hospital.

“We need a giant step forward in disease reduction, and we believe that this center will be the catalyst,” said Laura Smith, president and CEO of the WDS Foundation.

State of the art: The $21 million Washington Dental Service Building for Early Childhood Oral Health is a renovated World War II-era facility.
State of the art: The $21 million Washington Dental Service Building for Early Childhood Oral Health is a renovated World War II-era facility.