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Release: May 10, 2002

UI College of Dentistry researchers to study prevention of pediatric tooth decay

University of Iowa College of Dentistry researchers have been awarded a $200,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust to study the effectiveness of a gel in preventing tooth decay in preschool children.

Michael Kanellis, D.D.S., UI associate professor of pediatric dentistry, and David Drake, Ph.D., UI associate professor of endodontics and an investigator at the college's Dows Institute for Dental Research, have been awarded the grant in order to investigate the effectiveness of a 1 percent chlorhexidine gel in preventing tooth decay in preschool children.

Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic used as a general disinfectant or, in very dilute solutions, as a mouthwash. The gel used in the study is 10 times stronger than commercially available mouthwashes. The federal Food and Drug Administration approved the gel formulation specifically for this study.

The study will involve applying the chlorhexidine gel to the teeth of 3, 4, and 5-year-old children attending Head Start preschools in Davenport, Muscatine and surrounding communities. Researchers will begin recruitment for the current study in July.

"Tooth decay for high risk kids has become an increasingly difficult problem to solve. By going to where these kids are, we hope to make a significant dent in tooth decay," Kanellis said. "We are very excited about this gel and its potential effectiveness. If it is effective, it should create a lot of national interest and hopefully the FDA will allow for expanded use."

Drake is co-principal investigator on the project. Other members of the UI research team include Eileen Hermiston, assistant-in-instruction for pediatric dentistry and project coordinator; Cindy Marek, Pharm.D., assistant professor (clinical) in oral pathology, radiology and medicine; Rebecca Slayton, D.D.S., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatric dentistry; John Warren, D.D.S., assistant professor of preventive and community dentistry, examiner; Deborah Dawson, Ph.D., professor of preventive and community dentistry; and Steve Levy, D.D.S., professor of preventive and community dentistry.

David Olson, a third-year resident in the combined advanced training program in Pediatric Dentistry and Dental Public Health, completed a preliminary study using the gel with Head Start preschool children earlier this year.