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RESEARCH IN BRIEF

Dr. Christopher Okunseri’s research affirms Pamela marries inthe secret, from Samuel Richardson’s valueaofscene the School of Dentistry’s own novel, Pamela (1740). Engraved by L. Tuchy, 1745. outreach programs, which include free

RESEARCHER

Dr. Christopher Okunseri

Professor, Dental Clinical Services

sealants and other dental services to lowincome Wisconsin children.

Equal-OPPORTUNITY SMILES Advances such as dental sealants keep children’s teeth healthy, but how well are we doing at extending these treatments to poor children? The modern innovation known as dental sealants — plastic coatings fused onto children’s molars and other biting surfaces — has been shown to help prevent cracks and cavities that lead to tooth decay. As a result, they’ve become a regular part of preventive dental care and, most importantly, reduced the risk of children ending up in emergency rooms, missing class or being kept up at night by severe oral pain, says Dr. Christopher Okunseri, Grad ’10, professor of dental clinical services. But how well has this treatment — and these benefits — extended beyond the affluent to poor children at greatest risk for negative consequences of tooth decay? These are the kinds of answers Okunseri often seeks as a researcher bridging the worlds of dentistry and public health, and ones he addressed specifically through a recent study funded by a $314,000 National Institutes of

Health grant that examines the effects of a 2006 change in Wisconsin’s Medicaid policy. The change allowed dental hygienists to bill for dental sealants in public health settings such as schools. And while it had little demonstrated effect on hygienists, Okunseri’s analysis of vast billing databases revealed the change indirectly led dentists to perform the procedure more frequently — perhaps through increased awareness of competition. As a result, the number of poor children of color who’ve had the preventive dental procedure has increased significantly since the policy change. As he prepares to publish his findings in an upcoming issue of Health Services Research, Okunseri observes, “Kids also socialize better when they don’t have to deal with discomfort of the oral cavity. It improves their quality of life.” EDGAR MENDEZ

Read more about Okunseri’s research in Marquette’s Dental Images magazine: go.mu.edu/OkunseriDI.

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Discover Magazine 2017  

Discover Magazine 2017

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