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Girdwood receives award for research on Michigan Caries Prevention Program

John Girdwood

Ann Arbor, Mich., Oct. 13, 2016 -- John Girdwood, a School of Dentistry program manager with the Michigan Caries Prevention Program, recently received a research award for his work assessing the success of the program that is designed to reduce childhood dental disease.

Girdwood received one of two stipends from a new award program recently established by Smiles for Life, a national oral health curriculum.  The award supports publication or presentation of research in a scholarly format.  Girdwood will present his research later this month at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Michigan Caries Prevention Program is in its third year of developing a comprehensive interprofessional program to improve oral health in children, with an emphasis on improved collaboration between dental and medical professionals. The effort is supported by the U.S. government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which in 2014 awarded a $9.4 million grant to the Altarum Institute in Ann Arbor and collaborators including the School of Dentistry, Delta Dental of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Girdwood works under the direction of Dr. Margherita Fontana, a professor in the School of Dentistry’s Department of Cariology, Restorative Sciences and Endodontics.  Fontana, who has an extensive clinical research background in childhood caries management, oversees the work of U-M faculty and staff in the project. Also assisting in the project is Emily Yanca, data and clinical study manager.

Girdwood’s newest research -– titled “Program Fidelity of a Statewide Medical-Dental Initiative to Improve Oral Health” -– extends prior research about integrating fluoride varnish, a dental procedure, into medical clinics. “Most of the literature has focused on overcoming structural barriers which help medical clinics adopt and implement the new procedure,” Girdwood said. “But our study is focused on fidelity and sustainability of this interprofessional care effort.”

The MCPP team conducted a pilot study with the University of Michigan Health System pediatrics department and Hurley Children’s Clinic in Flint over the course of six months to gather data about the provision of four main components – oral health risk assessment, fluoride varnish application, patient education, and referral to a dental home.  “We found that an engaged clinical team with an ‘Oral Health Champion’ integrated oral health into the medical clinic with new tools and interprofessional collaboration,” Girdwood said.

He said that project involves various community-based dental education sites, many of which are Federally Qualified Heath Centers. “Those are prime venues to study how dental students, clinicians and medical staff can work together toward comprehensive patient-centered care,” Girdwood said.

The Smiles For Life Research Award is a $500 stipend to be used to support travel and accommodations to present research results at an educational conference. Over the past decade, Smiles for Life has become one of the most robust oral health educational programs in the United States, with more than 400,000 discrete online users and numerous medical, nursing, physician assistant and other health schools using the educational modules.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:
Sharon Grayden, Communications Director, at (734) 615-2600,, or Lynn Monson, Writer, at (734) 615-1971.