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PROTECT Research Study

PROTECT  – Preventing Recurrent Operations Targeting Early Childhood Caries Treatment

Too many young children, particularly those living in poverty, present for dental surgery under anesthesia — an expensive, potentially dangerous, short-term fix that often results in recurring oral health disease and subsequent surgeries. Dr. Helen Lee, an anesthesiologist, and Dr. Joanna Buscemi, a clinical health psychologist, recognized that to decrease need for surgeries, caregivers need resources and support to build their skills and knowledge around managing their child’s oral health. After 5 years of relationship-building, publishing preliminary qualitative work, and building a team with the appropriate skills and knowledge, they developed a grant application to develop and test a parenting intervention for caregivers of preschool- aged children presenting for dental surgery.

With support from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the team created the PROTECT intervention with a focus on providing caregivers with parenting and behavioral tools to help improve tooth brushing and lower added sugar intake while simultaneously addressing social determinants of health that make behavior change more difficult. Community health workers will engage with caregivers for 6 months following the child’s surgery to deliver PROTECT and support parents in behavioral change. A surgical event is a unique opportunity to change behaviors in systemically oppressed families that have manifested a need for behavior change. This intervention will meet caregivers needs at a critical time when risk disease recurrence intersects with a desire to change. This work has the potential to not only improve oral health of entire households but may also have a concomitant effect on parallel diseases, such as pediatric obesity.

Who qualifies for this study? Heading link

Mother and young daughter hugging and smiling
  • English or Spanish-speaking parents or caregivers
  • Those who plan to continue their child’s dental care at UIC
  • Those over 18 years old
  • Those who have a child less than 72 months of age (under 6 years old) undergoing dental surgery

What is the process of being a part of this study? Heading link

Child smiling and with an apple

There are two main parts to this study:

  1. Meeting with a community health worker (CHW) for 11 sessions over 6 months following dental surgery. The CHW will support parents in changing behaviors and improving their child’s tooth health. Caregivers will learn about tooth health/tooth brushing, healthy eating, parenting, managing stress, and more. The first session will be 60 minutes and take place in-person during the child’s dental surgery. The following 10 sessions will be about 30 minutes each and over the phone or zoom.
  2.  Meeting with a research assistant 3 times over 8-12 months to answer questionnaires. The research assistant ask questions over the phone or zoom to will collect information from caregivers about their tooth brushing, healthy eating, and parenting habits. Each session will take about 90 minutes. Participants will receive gift cards following each of these data collection sessions to thank them for their time (total of $145).