News Release

Friday, September 18, 2015

NIH funds consortium for childhood oral health disparities research

The National Institutes of Health will award 10 research grants aimed at eliminating inequities in access to care and improving the oral health of children. Totaling more than $7 million in first-year funding, these awards support the Multidisciplinary and Collaborative Research Consortium to Reduce Oral Health Disparities in Children, a new initiative of NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).

“By establishing this research consortium, NIDCR seeks to lead national efforts in reducing childhood oral health disparities.”

Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D
Director, NIDCR

“By establishing this research consortium, NIDCR seeks to lead national efforts in reducing childhood oral health disparities,” said NIDCR Director Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D. “Among the projects awarded are those that test innovative health promotion and disease prevention strategies and evaluate and refine existing programs and policies.”

Children from certain racial and ethnic groups or from families with low levels of education and income are far more likely than other children to develop oral diseases, including tooth decay. In March 2015, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that Hispanic/Latino children and black children are about twice as likely as white children to have untreated tooth decay in primary teeth. NIDCR’s previous investments established the Centers for Research to Reduce Disparities in Oral Health, which gave rise to a cadre of dedicated oral health disparities researchers. Their community-based investigations illuminated the complex social and behavioral determinants of oral health disparities and inequities.

“Research has shown that individual-level approaches alone are not sufficient to reduce rates of tooth decay and other oral diseases,” said NIDCR Health Disparities Research Program Director Ruth Nowjack-Raymer, Ph.D., R.D.H., M.P.H. “Therefore, the consortium’s research projects will involve holistic, population health and other approaches to take decisive action against oral health disparities at multiple levels of influence, such as families, neighborhoods, and health care systems.”

The following projects will be funded for up to five years (pending available funds):

  • Integrating Interactive Parent Text Messaging and Oral Health Guidelines into Pediatric Community Health Centers to Reduce Early Childhood Caries
    Principal Investigators: Belinda Borrelli, Ph.D. and Michelle Henshaw, D.D.S., M.P.H.; Boston University Medical Campus; UH2DE025492-01
  • Using Social Networks to Improve Oral Health
    Principal Investigator: Raul Garcia, D.M.D.; Boston University Medical Campus; UH2DE025505-01
  • Multi-Level Interventions to Reduce Caries Disparities in Primary Care Settings
    Principal Investigator: Suchitra Nelson, M.Sc., M.S.,Ph.D.; Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland; UH2DE025487-01
  • Influence of Financial Incentives on Oral Disease Management in Young Children Principal
    Investigators: Stuart Gansky, Dr.P.H., James Kahn, M.D., M.P.H., and Francisco Ramos-Gomez, D.D.S., M.S., M.P.H.; University of California, San Francisco; UH2DE025514-01
  • Evaluating Standardized Preventive Care to Reduce Dental Disparities in Children Principal
    Investigators: Elizabeth Mertz, Ph.D. and Joel White, D.D.S., M.S.; University of California, San Francisco; UH2DE025504-01
  • COordinated Oral Health Promotion (CO-OP) Chicago
    Principal Investigator: Molly Martin, M.D., M.A.P.P.; University of Illinois at Chicago; UH2DE025483-01
  • Evaluating the Outcomes of Oral Health Workforce Policy to Increase Access to Dental Providers and Reduce Oral Health Disparities
    Principal Investigators: Melanie Simmer-Beck, R.D.H., Ph.D. and Patricia J. Kelly, Ph.D., M.P.H., A.P.R.N.; University of Missouri, Kansas City; UH2DE025510-01
  • Sociopolitical Policies That Reduce Disparities in Children’s Oral Health
    Principal Investigators: Anne Sanders, Ph.D., and Gary Slade, Ph.D.; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; UH2DE025494-01
  • Oral Health Equity in Alaska (OHEAL): Implementation and Evaluation of Delivery System Changes to Reduce Oral Health Disparities for Native American Children
    Principal Investigator: Joana Cunha-Cruz, D.D.S.,M.P.H., Ph.D.; University of Washington, Seattle; UH2DE025488-01
  • Coordinating Center to Help Eliminate/Reduce Oral Health Inequalities in Children
    Principal Investigators: Stuart Gansky, Dr.P.H. and Steven Gregorich, Ph.D.; University of California, San Francisco; U01DE025507-01

To learn more about the consortium, visit

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is the nation’s leading funder of research on dental, oral, and craniofacial health. Visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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