Dr. Lorel Burns Awarded NIDCR Grant to Study Root Canal Therapy in Children


Lorel Burns, DDS, MS, assistant professor of endodontics, has received a grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to study the prevalence and outcomes of root canal therapy in children. The award, which began September 1, provides more than $805,000 over five years.

Root canal therapy—a procedure that treats tooth pain and infection to save natural teeth—is the most common endodontic procedure, with more than 15 million performed annually in the United States. While most of the literature on root canal therapy outcomes focuses on adults, children also undergo the procedure on their permanent teeth.

Treating tooth pain and infection in children is different from treating adults due to anatomical differences and behavioral factors. Moreover, as the field of endodontics has advanced, newer, alternative treatments have emerged for treating permanent teeth with immature roots.

"Because of the lack of robust data comparing these endodontics strategies and their outcomes in children, clinicians may have difficulty making informed treatment planning decisions and evaluating quality of care. This underscores the need for rigorous assessment and quality measures specific to the pediatric population," said Dr. Burns.

To address this gap in knowledge, Dr. Burns will use a mixed-methods approach to determine the prevalence, outcomes, and spending related to root canal therapy performed on children’s permanent teeth. The researchers will conduct a quantitative assessment using a large, population-based sample of administrative claims data from New York and Massachusetts. Through qualitative interviews with clinicians, Dr. Burns will also explore whether a variety of factors related to patients and providers influence treatment planning and decision-making.

"By focusing on children, an understudied group, and evaluating how public vs. private insurance and clinician decision-making impact outcomes, our study will allow for broadly generalizable findings on root canal therapy that have the potential to influence clinical practice and dental policy," said Dr. Burns.

Dr. Burns’ NIDCR grant is a K01 Mentored Career Development Award. This research will launch her career in health services research, integrating her clinical expertise in endodontics with additional training in the analysis of clinical care processes and outcomes at the population level. Her primary mentor for this grant is NYU Langone Health's Heather Gold, PhD, a health economist and expert in determining how socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, geographic, and clinical variations in health care affect health and economic outcomes.