Dental care is among the greatest unmet needs among American children.
The Surgeon General identified cavities as the most preventable chronic disease of childhood. In fact, based on a 2007 report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 percent of children 2 to 5 years of age nationwide experience decay in their baby teeth.The 2011 Lucas County Health Assessment indicated that 32 percent of children had not seen a dentist.
In response to this issue, The University of Toledo Department of Pediatrics is teaming up with local pediatricians and dentists to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood dental care and to help actively combat dental issues in children.
The UT Department of Pediatrics was awarded a $3,000 American Academy of Pediatrics Community Access to Child Health Grant in November for its Toledo Smiles project. The six-month project will help increase access to dental care for underserved children in Lucas County through the end of August.
Dr. Jen Noble, a pediatric resident at UT Medical Center, initiated Toledo Smiles. Noble serves as the resident liaison to the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Oral Health in addition to district chair for the academy’s Section on Medical Students, Residents and Fellowship Trainees.
“My goal was for the community to receive better service in regard to this issue. I wanted it to be a call to action to get pediatricians involved in the conversation,” Noble said.
Participating pediatricians will offer an oral health risk assessment questionnaire at well-child visits beginning at 6 months of age. Well-child visits provide an opportunity for parents and pediatricians to discuss the importance of oral health and developing good brushing and flossing habits early. Parents are then offered the option to select one of the participating dentists to schedule an oral screening and exam.
“All children are required to visit a pediatrician for immunizations, which is why it’s such a pivotal opportunity for doctors to have the dental health conversation with parents,” Noble said.
One week in to the project, 90 risk assessment forms had been completed, 37 dental appointments had been scheduled, and three children had dental visits.
“The collaborative effort between the pediatric residents and the pediatric dental residents has been awesome,” Noble said.
There are four medical clinics and three dental clinics participating: Mercy St. Vincent’s Family Care Center Pediatric Clinic, UT Pediatric and UT Pediatric Dental Clinics, the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department Pediatric and Dental Clinics in downtown Toledo, the Western-Lucas County Health Department Pediatric Clinic and the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio.
Project updates can be found by following #ToledoSmiles.