UF College of Dentistry receives $1.2 million grant to provide dental care to underserved children

Ashley Daniels, D.D.S., a second-year pediatric dentistry resident at the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center in Naples, provides care for a patient in November 2019. This image was taken prior to national guidelines of face coverings and social distancing. (Photo by Aaron Daye, UF Foundation)The Naples Children & Education Foundation, or NCEF, has provided the University of Florida College of Dentistry with a $1.2 million grant to continue the collaborative mission of improving the oral health of underserved children in Collier County.

The renewal for 2020-22 of the existing grant from NCEF, founders of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, will help sustain community-based prevention efforts at the college’s Naples-based pediatric dental center, the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center, where UF pediatric dental residents also provide oral health care to children from Collier County.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Naples Children & Education Foundation for their collaboration and for their continued support of the mission of the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center,” said  UF College of Dentistry Dean A. Isabel Garcia, D.D.S, M.P.H. “As one of the largest oral health safety net providers in Florida, we have a responsibility to serve our state and the children of Southwest Florida by delivering the highest degree of patient-centered care and service.”

NCEF’s grant will support the dental center’s school-based dental sealant program in Collier County, the screening and fluoride varnish program and the center’s use of silver diamine fluoride, or SDF, to help halt tooth decay.

In addition, the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center will add atraumatic restorative technique, or ART, an evidence-based, minimally invasive approach to restoring cavities in young children. ART requires no needles, no local anesthesia, no sedation and no drilling. When used in conjunction with SDF, this approach to caries management, known as silver-modified atraumatic restorative technique, or SMART, has been shown to be highly effective in managing tooth decay in baby teeth.

With NCEF’s support in these initiatives, the dental center envisions that the SMART approach will significantly reduce the high levels of untreated disease documented in Collier County the past six years, reduce the incident of urgent dental needs, and improve the health and well-being of children who experience high levels of dental disease.

The NCEF Pediatric Dental Center, located on Florida SouthWestern State College’s Collier County campus, opened its doors in 2008 and is one of UF’s five Florida dental centers. The pediatric dental center offers routine and specialty services for children ages birth to 21 in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified 20,000-square-foot facility.

Local philanthropists founded the Naples Children & Education Foundation in 2000 to address income disparities in Collier County that predominantly affect children. Contrary to the seaside haven of Naples, further inland in Collier County there are low-income and impoverished communities, including those of seasonal farmworkers in Immokalee, where families live on $9,496 to $24,556 a year, according to U.S. government data.

Supported with proceeds from the high-profile Naples Winter Wine Festival, NCEF has invested more than $212 million in programs that “significantly improve the physical, emotional and educational lives” of local children.

“NCEF is proud to extend our partnership with the University of Florida’s College of Dentistry to further the efforts of our Oral Health initiative,” said NCEF Chief Executive Officer Maria Jimenez-Lara. “Since our initial grant in 2006, we have seen incredible results in expanding access to basic dental care and reducing the number of children locally who suffer from dental disease and oral health-related issues.”

A 2005 study commissioned by the NCEF revealed a “catastrophic crisis in oral health” among Collier children. More than a third, around 17,000, had no access to basic dental care. At one elementary school, nearly 70% of students had untreated decay, and 18% had abscesses, swelling and other problems requiring immediate help.

Enter the collaboration between NCEF and the UF College of Dentistry, with support from Florida SouthWestern State College, area hospitals and state and local agencies. Fueled by a $4.5 million grant from the NCEF that was matched by the state to total $9 million, the state-of-the-art NCEF Pediatric Dental Center was born.

The dental center features a UF College of Dentistry pediatric residency training program and boasts multiple programs for community outreach and prevention. It has carved out a niche for children with special needs. To treat the most serious cases, the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center works with Physicians Regional and Lee Health to provide weekly access to operating rooms.

Lauren Governale, D.M.D., was selected to lead the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center prior to its opening in December 2008.

“It’s been fun and wonderful and very rewarding,” Governale said. “We have completed about 158,000 patient visits to date, a couple thousand operating room cases, and 1,500 IV sedation cases. We even have referrals from pediatric dentists from the community for work that is too extensive (for them).”

About Naples Children & Education Foundation

The Naples Children & Education Foundation, the founding organization of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, is improving the educational, emotional and health outcomes of underprivileged and at-risk children. Through its annual grants and collaborative strategic initiatives, NCEF has impacted over 45 of the most effective nonprofits in the community, providing more than 275,000 children with the services and resources they need to excel. NCEF's unique approach, which emphasizes collaboration between organizations and bridges public and private resources, has become a blueprint for how to transform a community, one issue at a time.

The Naples Children & Education Foundation selects Blueprint Partners that exemplify the highest levels of efficacy and accountability. The UF College of Dentistry provides leadership for NCEF’s Oral Health Initiative, a groundbreaking effort that brings nonprofits together to achieve a greater collective impact. Blueprint Partners collaborate to optimize funding and develop innovative programs to provide dental care to at-risk and underserved children of Collier Country. NCEF Blueprint Partners in the initiative also include Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida.

Media contact: Ken Garcia at kdgarcia@ufl.edu or 352-273-9799.