NSU Dental Program Receives Statewide Award

Ana Karina Mascarenhas, B.D.S., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., associate dean of research of NSU's College of Dental Medicine

The NSU College of Dental Medicine’s Smiles Across Miami program was named a Sapphire Awards recipient and earned a $20,000 grant for its efforts to bring quality oral health services to underserved and primarily uninsured school children in Miami-Dade County. Accepting the award was Ana Karina Mascarenhas, B.D.S., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., associate dean of research of NSU's College of Dental Medicine.

The awards, presented by the Florida Blue Foundation and totaling $350,000, honor outstanding work by individuals, programs, and nonprofit organizations in community healthcare, or healthcare-related fields, distinguished by leadership, innovation, and achievements in community health. The honorees in each category were announced at the conclusion of the two-day Sapphire Symposium held in April in Orlando, Florida, that featured community health experts from around the state and country.

“The goal of Smiles Across Miami is to identify oral diseases early and improve access to vitally needed oral healthcare for Miami-Dade school children most at risk in order to reduce health disparities and improve health and social equity in our community,” said Ana Karina Mascarenhas, B.D.S., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., associate dean of research at NSU’s College of Dental Medicine, who oversees the program.

Smiles Across Miami addresses the disparity in oral health through a two-pronged approach: early screening, prevention, and improved access to quality oral healthcare; as well as training medical staff/providers in 145 Miami-Dade schools to screen for oral diseases and provide oral health counseling, refer children needing further treatment to a dentist, and providing technical assistance and monitoring.

“By starting preventive care, treatment, and education at an early stage, we can provide the basis for children to maintain good oral health and overall healthy habits for their entire lifetime,” said Linda Niessen, D.M.D., M.P.H., M.P.P., dean of NSU’s College of Dental Medicine.

During the 2014-15 program year, the program reached 857 children. Successes included an 18 percent reduction in restorative treatment needed, a 41 percent reduction in the number of extractions performed, and 72 percent of the children did not require any additional treatment beyond preventive care. The program also trained 210 medical staff from Miami-Dade to provide oral health screening, counseling, fluoride varnish applications, and refer to a dentist. This has the potential to impact 35,000 children.

Since 2005, Florida Blue Foundation has presented 73 Sapphire Awards, totaling more than $3.75 million, to 15 individuals and 58 programs and organizations from across Florida. This year’s honorees were selected from among 112 nominees. An independent panel of experts with state and national expertise in community health best practices selected the honorees in each category.