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DentaQuest honors dentists for removing barriers to dental care

January 10, 2017


By Michelle Manchir

DentaQuest in December named seven health leaders 2016 Health Equity Heroes, including ADA members Drs. Barry Hopper and Ian Lerner.
The awards are given to people who have "made significant contributions toward removing barriers to health services advocating for the underserved and addressing health disparities."

Dr. Barry Hopper

Dr. Hopper, of Bristol, Tennessee, achieved this by developing and funding the mass production of disposable toothbrushes with preapplied xylitol toothpaste that children in public schools in his home county can use to brush their teeth in a school classroom or hallway without water.

He has distributed 40,000 of the toothbrushes to underserved populations since 2011, according to DentaQuest, and he developed a curriculum and brushing regimen for children in Tennessee through an after-lunch brushing program."Providing education, opportunity and implementation on a consistent basis in the school setting is a viable means of reducing caries and improving oral health," Dr. Hopper told the ADA News.  "The program that I conceived has shown to be both accepted and appreciated in the school environment. For school children, it is as important to brush after lunch as it is to wash their hands before lunch."Dr. Hopper said he'd like to expand his program. He said interested school officials or dental professionals could contact him by email at or learn more about his work at

Dr. Ian Lerner
Dr. Lerner, of New York City, was honored as the founder of the Greater New York Smiles Program and for organizing a Medicaid dental forum and also an international oral cancer symposium, according to DentaQuest.
The 'Smiles' program that he spearheaded (with grants from DentaQuest, the DentaQuest Foundation and Colgate) has provided than 10,000 third- and fourth-graders from New York City public dental disease screenings and also education about nutrition and oral hygiene.
The Medicaid forum he organized allowed participating providers to ask questions directly to attorneys, state health officials, third-party administrators and other relevant stakeholders.
"It gives providers the current legal and procedural information they need to practice and helps prevent fraud and abuse of the system through education," Dr. Lerner said.
The oral cancer symposium brought together hundreds of health care professionals, including international attendees through simultaneous translation, to discuss the current diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer patients.
"I do this work because it is necessary and I like it," Dr. Lerner told the ADA News. "I enjoy creating unique educational opportunities and seeing the finished product at the end of the process. These programs generate rapport. They are good for the public, the providers and the sponsors. They are good for dentistry."

DentaQuest's other Health Equity Heroes for 2016 include:

  • Susan Campion, chief programs officer for AIDS Services of Austin in Austin, Texas.

  • Mark Deutchman, M.D., professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and associate dean for Rural Health at the University of Colorado.

  • Xavier Morales, Ph.D., executive director of The Praxis Project in Oakland, California.

  • Lisa Schildhorn, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Oral Health in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

  • Diana "DeDe" Yazzie Devine, president and CEO of Native American Connections in Phoenix, Arizona.

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