The University of Colorado Denver’s School of Dental Medicine announced today a new gift aimed at improving children’s oral health. The Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation has pledged $1.5 million to create an endowed chair in Early Childhood Caries Research. Caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, is the most common chronic disease of children aged six to 11. Caries is largely preventable.

“The School of Dental Medicine is privileged to treat the citizens of Colorado. Delta Dental continues to be one of our very strongest partners in ensuring our Colorado neighbors, particularly the younger members of our communities, have a real chance at beginning their lives with healthy smiles,” said Denise Kassebaum, DDS, MS, dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “The establishment of this chair, and the world-class clinician researcher we will be able to recruit to fill the position, will have long-term positive impact on the fight against this disease.”

The Delta Dental targeted gift will catalyze a far-reaching series of proactive steps to recruit faculty, identify research and continue to increase awareness.

“Delta Dental of Colorado has had a vibrant, mutually beneficial partnership with the School of Dental Medicine for a very long time,” said Barbara Springer, vice president of administration for Delta Dental of Colorado. “Our continued mission of the eradication of oral disease in children fits perfectly with the school’s emphasis on the oral and overall systemic health connection. Treating the patient as a whole—versus simply treating what’s going on in the patient’s mouth—is the way of the future for dental care. We’re excited to help in moving these initiatives forward for the benefit of all.”

The School of Dental Medicine has plans to integrate several existing programs under a single new Department of Prevention and Population Health Research within the school. The new department would integrate proven dental health programs for patients throughout their life cycle. This includes a prenatal dental care program for pregnant mothers, the popular Cavity Free at Three Program, activities from an NIH-funded Oral Health Disparities Center for underserved populations, inter-professional education initiatives and brand new initiatives aimed at caries prevention and overall population health promotion.

Endowed chairs are among the highest honors awarded by a university and are reserved for only the most distinguished clinicians and scientists. The University of Colorado Foundation facilitated this generous investment in the School of Dental Medicine.   Donor contributions play a critical role in the funding of higher education and go to specific projects and not to the university’s general fund.