UW News

September 30, 2010

UW, Seattle Children’s launch new pediatric oral health center

School Of Dentistry

Dental chairs in the pediatric care facility. The new program emphasizes dental disease prevention and early treatment, with a goal of first childhood visits by age 1.


With UW Provost and Interim President Phyllis Wise in attendance, The Center for Pediatric Dentistry celebrated the completion of its new building on Aug. 19 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Magnuson Park. Operations began on Sept. 1.

The ribbon-cutting heralded the $21 million renovation of a War War II-era building, which has now become the Washington Dental Service Building for Early Childhood Oral Health and the home of the new program.

The Center for Pediatric Dentistry, which unites the UW School of Dentistry and Seattle Children’s as partners, will tackle childhood dental disease with new approaches, including an emphasis on early intervention with dental visits by age 1. It will be a center of not only clinical care, but of research, education and public policy, in the hopes that it can lead the way in making inroads in what has been called a “silent epidemic.” According to state figures, more than 60 percent of elementary-school children have dental decay, with about 20 percent of them suffering decay in seven or more teeth.

The new facility, which anticipates 30,000 patient visits in its first year and 40,000 a year thereafter, is the first of its kind in the United States. Its mission will also embrace training for medical professionals in early-childhood caries detection and treatment.

“We are seeing an alarming increase in early childhood caries,” said Dr. Joel Berg, chair of the UW Department of Pediatric Dentistry and director of the new program. “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 Dr. Tom Hansen, CEO of Seattle Children’s. “We are pleased to partner with the University of Washington on this important initiative.”

In brief remarks preceding the ribbon-cutting, Wise praised the new program’s collaborative nature. “Those who will make a difference in 21st-century health care will be those who synergize their partners,” she said.

The Center for Pediatric Dentistry arose out of discussions among Berg, Seattle Children’s, the UW, Washington Dental Service and the Washington Dental Service Foundation during the past few years. An unprecedented gift of $5 million from WDS and its Foundation in 2007 provided the impetus to launch construction, while Seattle Children’s contributed $1.5 million and other resources, and the UW issued construction bonds to finance the balance of the renovation.

“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. “This is a unique opportunity to address early childhood oral disease through a multipronged approach: expanding the available care to prevent and treat, research on more effective ways to deliver care, and focus on those children most at risk, engaging medical providers in prevention by ensuring that their education includes oral health, and identifying needed public policy.”

Dentistry Dean Martha Somerman welcomed visitors to the ceremony. Dignitaries on hand included Wise; Susan Dreyfus, secretary of Washington state’s Department of Social and Health Services; U.S. Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state’s Ninth District; James Dwyer, president and CEO of WDS; Dr. John Liu, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry; Stanley Bergman, chairman and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc., the country’s leading dental supply company and a key contributor to the new center; Laura Smith; Hansen; and state legislators. School of Dentistry faculty and staff were also among the crowd of about 200 at the ceremony.

More information about The Center for Pediatric Dentistry is available on its website.