Nova Southeastern Receives $3.4 Million to Enhance Dental Care for People with Autism

Posted on July 30, 2015

FT. LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. – Dentists and other health care providers who treat patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) require special training to understand the skills and techniques needed to care for this growing population.

Romer Ocanto, D.D.S., M.S., CAGS, chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Dental Medicine, has secured a $3,398,452 grant from the Health Resource and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide this training to pediatric dentistry and advanced education in general dentistry residents over a five-year period. This is the third grant Dr. Ocanto has received from HRSA. Previous funding totaled approximately $3.5 million.

The program will include the development of a curriculum addressing the transition of children and adolescents with ASD to adult dental care and aims to increase access to dental care for children and adolescents with special health care needs such as ASD.

“Nova Southeastern University is committed to researching and implementing new techniques to help patients with special needs,” said Dr. Ocanto. “We are excited about this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many people. This funding will allow us to partner with community organizations and general dentists in Florida and throughout the Southeastern U.S. to enhance dental services available to patients with autism.”

“In its short history, NSU’s College of Dental Medicine has developed a strong tradition of caring for children and adults with special needs,” added Linda Niessen, D.M.D., M.P.H., M.P.P., dean of the college.

Currently NSU’s College of Dental Medicine has pediatric special needs dental clinics at NSU’s Mailman Segal Center for Human Development in Davie, Florida; NSU Dental Care at KID in Fort Lauderdale; and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida; along with an adult special needs dental clinic in North Miami Beach, Florida. NSU has existing relationships with Broward Health Medical Center, the South Florida Autism Charter School and the Autism Consortium/Broward County Public Schools to provide additional dental services to the special needs community.

Approximately one in 68 children has been diagnosed with ASD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Average medical expenses for children and adolescents with ASD are $4,100-$6,200 higher per year than children without ASD.

This project is 100% financed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number D88HP20126 and Postdoctoral Training in General, Pediatric and Public Health Dentistry and Dental Hygiene for $3,398,452. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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