of Kentucky Lee T. Todd Jr. accepts an endowment from
Delta Dental President and CEO Cliff Maesaka.
Dental is Kentucky's largest dental benefits provider
making an effort to address a Kentucky problem. By
aiding this collaboration between Kentucky's two premier
research institutions, Delta Dental's funding should
position oral health research in Kentucky to more
effectively compete for national funding initiatives
in both research and training, which can only be a
benefit for the academic institutions, the economy
of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the citizens
of the state."
Jeffrey Ebersole, Ph.D., director,
UK Center for Oral Health Research
16, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- Delta Dental
Plan of Kentucky has awarded the University of Kentucky
College of Dentistry and the University of Louisville
School of Dentistry a $1.5 million endowment that
will be used to enhance research efforts and improve
oral health for Kentuckians.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky Research Challenge Trust
Fund is matching the endowment for both universities,
boosting Delta Dental's investment to a total of $3
million. The University of Kentucky will use its half
for the Delta Dental Plan of Kentucky Clinical Research
"Delta Dental is committed to improving oral
health care and finding prevention methods for health
related illnesses as evidenced by this endowment," said Cliff Maesaka, president and C.E.O. of Delta
The UK College of Dentistry, with the UK Chandler
Medical Center, established the Center for Oral Health
Research (COHR) to enhance interdisciplinary research
cross-fertilization of research expertise. The Delta
Dental Center will be the clinical arm of the COHR,
researching ways to define and impact oral health
disparities in rural Kentucky.
"Delta Dental is Kentucky's largest dental benefits
provider making an effort to address a Kentucky problem,"
said Jeffrey Ebersole, Ph.D., director of the UK Center
for Oral Health Research. "By aiding this collaboration
between Kentucky's two premier research institutions,
Delta Dental's funding should position oral health
research in Kentucky to more effectively compete for
national funding initiatives in both research and
training, which can only be a benefit for the academic
institutions, the economy of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,
and the citizens of the state."
Kentucky has the second highest rate of edentulism
- loss of all teeth - in the U.S., often resulting
from periodontal disease. Also, when the bacteria
or their toxins from the mouth get into the blood,
they clearly increase the risk for general health
problems, like endocarditis and diabetes, and also
appear to contribute to pre-term and low birth-weight
"In the last five years it has become apparent
that periodontal disease and certain chronic systematic
conditions are intertwined," said Denis Kinane,
Ph.D., Delta Dental Endowed Professor and associate
dean of research and enterprise at the U of L School
of Dentistry. "We are investigating the biological
mechanisms for these interrelationships so as to develop
better therapy and prevention of these oral and systemic
"The investment that Delta Dental has made to
both dental schools will significantly enhance the
oral health for the people of Kentucky," said
John N. Williams, D.M.D., M.B.A., dean, University
of Louisville School of Dentistry. "Two outstanding
scientists, one from each institution, will provide
the leadership for our collective research efforts.
Through the discovery of new knowledge, Kentuckians
can enjoy a higher quality of life."
Currently underway at UK's Delta Dental Center is
a multi-institutional National Institutes of Health
study that examines and treats pregnant women's oral
Two hundred and four Kentucky women with periodontal
disease, and 816 women nationwide, will be divided
into two groups. Half of the women will receive dental
care intervention during their pregnancy. Researchers
will see if those treated have babies closer to full-term
and at a normal weight, as opposed to those treated
The University of Minnesota is the principal site
of the study. The Delta Dental Center at UK is a clinical
site and the central laboratory for immunological
analyses, where samples will be sent from all four
sites, including Columbia University and the University
of Mississippi. John Novak, B.D.S., Ph.D., is co-investigator
of the study, as well as Arthur T. Evans, M.D., professor
and director of maternal-fetal medicine, Department
of Obstetrics and Gynecology, UK College of Medicine.
"Such studies linking oral disease to overall
health offer the opportunity to lower the extensive
rate of oral disease at all ages in the Kentucky population,"
said Leon A. Assael, D.M.D., dean of the UK College
of Dentistry. "With UK and U of L in collaboration,
this can be accomplished more effectively."
"If we had an unlimited amount of money for
dental care, we probably wouldn't need to do research,"
Ebersole said. "But, we can't eliminate oral
disease in Kentucky by treating one mouth at a time,
so we're doing it through research and prevention.
We all need to start looking at periodontal disease
and its dental effects as a public health program."