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Nebraska Office of Oral Health and Dentistry

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Recently, the Office of Oral Health and Dentistry has worked with the South Dakota Department of Health to adapt their oral health public service announcements to Nebraska's airwaves. Keep an eye out for these, and if you're a member of the media looking to place these on the air in your town, please contact






We’ve got exciting news coming out of the Office of Oral Health and Dentistry (OOHD).

We’ll be partnering with WIC and Head Start clinics across the state in an exciting eight month pilot program. The program, entitled Oral Health Access for Young Children, deploys $349,000 in federal grant money to these clinics in an effort to target children five and under for antimicrobial fluoride varnish applications. The varnish is easily applied to the children’s teeth and multiple applications provide protection from cavities and other dental maladies. In addition to the fluoride applications they receive, these children are being sent home with dental supplies to ensure that prevention continues at home.

These programs are being coordinated through fifteen health departments and FQHCs across Nebraska will reach 64 of Nebraska’s 93 counties – helping to bridge the gap experienced by so many counties without access to dental care, which accounts for 52 of the 93 counties in Nebraska. With 60 percent of children experiencing dental decay before by third grade, we think both these programs will prove a critical resource.

It’s all part of reaching out to Nebraska – and soon, we’ll being doing that in new, exciting ways as we work to increase our presence across the state.   Videos will be available both on and offline through an agreement with the South Dakota Department of Health, using animated bacteria critters to “drill” in the importance of brushing, flossing and cutting back on the sweets. We’re hoping to highlight OOHD’s good work and in turn, to instill excellent oral health practices statewide.

Our staff has been working to bringing other resources – brochures, leaflets and posters – to our website. We’re hoping this helps our materials reach more places in an easier manner. We’ll also be releasing new materials for use in dental offices, classrooms and homes.   If you’re looking for a dental clinic in your area, check out our handy map tool. We’ll continue to offer updates on this journal.

We want to reach people statewide, and none of this would be possible without our grant T12HP14997 from the Health Resources and Services Administration, which helps bolster our program.


Nebraska’s Head Start Programs: Teaching Dental Hygiene

I love visiting Head Start classrooms. Four and five year olds are bright-eyed and interested in everything around them, and welcome me enthusiastically. They can’t wait to hear what I have to say and are happy to share their own experiences. They get it immediately when I ask them to pull out imaginary tooth brushes and practice “E” and “Ahh” (more on this later) and they do so with great dramatic flair. Their instructors use wonderful management techniques to keep order. Who knew that you could silence a group of children by asking them to catch a big bubble in their mouth? Head Start classrooms are magical places filled with positive energy. Every once in a while I get to visit and join in their fun.

Good oral health has always been highly valued by Head Start policy makers. In every HS classroom supervised tooth brushing is an important part of the daily schedule. It warms my heart to see the students sitting at their tables, each reaching for his labeled tooth brush, scooping up a dab of tooth paste from a square of waxed paper, and to the positive beat of “Tooth Brush Rap,” systematically brushing each surface. When the song ends it is time to replace the brush in the rack, get up from the table and start marching around the circle rug to the “Tooth Patrol” parade song.

These are oral health habits that should transfer home to remain with these children for a lifetime. But not every child has a fresh brush and a tube of tooth paste waiting for him at home. The OOHD wants to support Head Start's efforts by ensuring that every HS/EHS student has adequate home brushing supplies, to be replenished quarterly. Tooth brushes were delivered to every Nebraska Head Start this past week so that children could take them home in time for Winter Break.

The Take Home Toothbrush program is made available from funds awarded to our office from Health Resources and Services Administration grant number T12HP14997. One goal of classroom tooth brushing is to create a desire in the children to have a clean and healthy mouth. Like so many of the things done at Head Start, this is simply part of the process of giving children the tools they will need in the future to be happy, healthy, and productive adults.



PS - I never got to tell you about E’s and Ahh’s. Next time.


As a dentist, I become increasingly concerned with the prevalence of fruit juice in young children’s diets. Fruit juices are loaded with natural sugar and many contain as much sugar per serving as soda. Picture this: Coke and apple juice contain similar amounts of sugar and 100% grape juice contains more sugar than Mountain Dew! When a child’s teeth are exposed to excessive amounts of sugar, even the natural sugars in pure fruit juices, the result too often is early and severe tooth decay.

“But fruit juice is healthy for my child!” This is true. Fruit juice contains valuable vitamins and minerals. Sugary pop like Coke and Mt. Dew have absolutely no nutritional value. The key is that children need to consume just small amounts of juice daily, perhaps 1/3 cup with breakfast. Prolonged exposure to juice is damaging to teeth. When a child carries a bottle or tippy cup and sips throughout the day, the teeth are exposure to sugar for an extended period of time.   

As a final word, let me introduce you to a 15 month old that I saw in clinic two weeks ago: She is a  beautiful child, nicely dressed and well-loved.  Mother drives an extra distance to take her to a daycare in a nearby town because the child spends most of her day there and Mom wants the best for her. The child arrives asleep in the morning. No one has thought to brush her teeth. This baby now has such severe decay on her four upper teeth that I do not believe that the hospital dental specialist will be able to save them. And as I found out through the course of our conversation, the child drinks juice throughout the day – a huge contributing factor in the multiple dental maladies she has suffered.  

Please remember: Just a small cup of juice at breakfast and no more for the rest of the day.   Milk at mealtimes. Plain water between meals when a child is thirsty.   Let children chew, not sip, their fruit! Substitute fresh fruit and nibbles of cheese for all of those extra juice calories. This will benefit not just their oral health, but their overall nutrition as well.


It’s a spooky time of the year – perhaps for the dentist most of all.

With Halloween fast approaching, parents may want to know what to weed out of their child’s candy bag, and what they can hand out to the neighbor kids to ensure good oral health.While Dr. Kären personally hands out toothbrushes and Pop Pops (those tiny noisemakers that crack when kids throw them to the ground), other people may want to stick with the candy status quo.

The first recommendation is to aim for chocolates. Parts of the husk of the cacao bean – from which chocolate is derived – contain tannins which can inhibit some mouth bacteria as well as provide plaque protection. This health effect is most often seen in dark chocolates, as they’re often less processed than other chocolates and retain more of the health benefits. In addition, as it melts in your mouth, it stays there for a shorter time than other candies, giving less time for sugars to settle in and do their dirty work.

But that brings us to the real monster lurking in the candy bag – hard candies. As they’re most often sucked slowly, the sugars have the maximum amount of time to wreak havoc in the mouth. If they crop up when sorting through the Halloween treasure, send them straight to the garbage.

Finally, be sure your children brush properly at the end of the night. For children under seven, that may mean a once over by mom or dad to make sure the teeth are clean. That way, the sugars aren’t haunting their oral health the whole night through.


Hello and welcome to the updated Office of Oral Health and Dentistry website. My name is Kären Sorenson, DDS. I am the Dental Director of the state of Nebraska. I’ve been practicing  dentistry for almost thirty years. I’ve been working to serve Nebraskans in need since 2003. The focus of the Office of Oral Health and Dentistry is preventive oral care for young children.  I’m going to use this blog as a soap box to educate and hopefully to inspire Nebraskans about the importance and value of preventive oral care for young children.

Let me begin by discussing Fluoride.  Fluoride can occur naturally in our water, it can be added to drinking water or given as a supplement.  It is my professional conviction that the amazing benefits of fluoride toothpaste should be available to children of all ages. Children who swallow too much fluoride toothpaste can show signs of fluorosis (too much fluoride can appear as white spots on the permanent teeth or in extreme cases it can make enamel rough and difficult to clean).  It is important for children to be supervised by an adult when they brush. Supervision is important for two reasons.

The first is to control the amount of toothpaste used. When brushing a baby’s teeth no more than a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste should be applied to the brush.  Older children who can spit out their toothpaste should have a “pea sized” amount dispensed.   Just as access to other medications is controlled by parents, access to toothpaste should be controlled by an adult.

The second reason is frankly, quality control. Parents and caregivers should brush a baby’s teeth twice daily from the time that the first tooth erupts.  If a young child is determined to brush her own teeth, allow practice with an empty brush.  Parents of older children (up to seven years old) should continue to assist with brushing, checking the child’s finished product and cleaning away any remaining areas of plaque.


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