14:11 PM

Dr. Man Wai Ng, Oral Health Champion

This morning, I gathered with DentaQuest colleagues and others in Boston's health care community at Boston Business Journal's Health Care Champion Awards ceremony. I extend my congratulations to all 2010 Champions and especially to Dr. Man Wai Ng who was recognized in the category of Innovator. Dr. Ng is an important research partner with the DentaQuest Institute, focused on improving treatment for children with early childhood caries (cavities) .

Every day, Dr. Ng, Dentist-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital Boston, sees the tragedy of advanced cases of dental disease in very young children. She often talks about the children -- 5 years old and younger – who arrive at the emergency room in severe pain from tooth decay that has ravaged their baby teeth. In many cases, the children she sees have suffered for such a long time that the underlying disease has begun to erode their jawbones to the point where they may not be able to develop normal permanent teeth! In these cases, the only solution for these young children is often surgery.

Hospital-based dental clinics, like the one Dr. Ng leads at Children’s Hospital in Boston, care for a disproportionate number of very young, low-income, racial and ethnic minority children with the advanced tooth decay of early childhood caries.

The traditional way of treating extreme cases of early childhood caries is surgery in the hospital operating room. The treatment is difficult, extremely scary for children, very expensive, and very avoidable, especially when you consider that dental disease is almost 100% preventable. What's even sadder is that children with this advanced disease typically wait up to 6 months for an opening in the operating room. And as they wait, they are in significant pain. If you've ever suffered from a serious tooth ache, you know how uncomfortable this can be. The severity of mouth pain in these children impacts their ability to learn to speak, to eat, to play, and their overall quality of life. Although surgery restores the damaged teeth, it doesn't solve the root cause of the disease which is bacteria. Many children experience unacceptably high rates of cavity recurrence (23-57% within 6-24 months). Dr. Ng is working to stop the root cause of the disease by controlling the bacteria and break the cycle of childhood tooth decay.

Dr. Ng enlisted the DentaQuest Institute to underwrite a demonstration project that would enable her team at Children’s Hospital Boston and another team at St. Joseph Hospital for Children in Providence RI to test an alternative method of treating this disease. Dr. Ng’s focus is controlling the cause of dental cavities by eliminating the bacteria. She and her dental care team are involving the parent or caregiver with education and at home instruction as an equally important step in controlling the advance and recurrence of dental disease as the hospital treatment. After two years, the research teams are seeing remarkable success in reducing the frequency of operating room treatments and instances of reoccurrence the disease in these children.

Along with her work in the dental clinic at Children’s Hospital, Dr. Ng is a teacher and mentor for the next generation of dentists and pediatricians. She is proving that with education and prevention, children’s oral health can be improved, and at-risk children can return to a normal pain-free state. When this is done, costly, painful and invasive surgery can be minimized.

Dr. Ng’s focus on prevention is innovative, compassionate, and practical. It demonstrates that thoughtful changes to established care regimens that are based on good science do make a difference in stopping dental disease, improving the quality of life for at-risk young children, and reducing health care spending.

Today Dr. Ng thanked Children’s Hospital for recognizing the importance of oral health by including dental care among their services. We thank them too. And, we congratulate Dr. Ng for her great work, and for continued success in her cause to eliminate dental disease in children.

Guest blog post by Dr. Mark Doherty, Executive Director of the DentaQuest Institute