MEDIA CONTACTIlana Lewis, (402) 314-9172, Ilana.Lewis@nebraska.gov
Lincoln – February is National Children's Dental Health Month. This month-long observance brings together thousands of healthcare providers, oral health champions, and others to promote the benefits of good oral health and prevention to children, parents, caregivers, teachers, and many others. “Children's Dental Health Month is the perfect time for all Nebraskans to ensure the children in their lives have the sound oral health they need to be healthy and thrive," said Charity Menefee, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director of the Division of Public Health.
National Children's Dental Health observances began in Cleveland Ohio in February 1941 and since then have grown into a nationwide program spearheaded by the American Dental Association (ADA). Attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life. By recognizing and celebrating National Children's Dental Health Month, members of the dental profession can partner with community support to keep children's smiles bright, for years to come.
DHHS also has a variety of resources to help parents and caregivers. Every five years, the DHHS Office of Oral Health (OOHD) completes an oral health survey of children within the state of Nebraska. As of the 2015-16 survey, about 60% of Head Start and 3rd-grade children had already experienced dental decay, a rate higher than the national average. The survey also demonstrated that rural children have higher rates of dental disease and less access to preventative care than urban children.
To reverse these trends, the DHHS OOHD created two public health programs, “Nebraska Teeth Forever" (NTF) and “Nebraska Early Dental Health Starter Kits" to increase the focus on education and prevention for children across the state.
NTF brings together a unique workforce of public health dental hygienists and community health workers to form Community Dental Disease Prevention teams. These teams operate within local health departments to provide dental services across the lifespan in children's centers, elementary schools, and older adult facilities. They utilize portable hygiene equipment and offer dental screenings, oral hygiene information, dental cleanings, fluoride varnish, dental sealants, silver diamine fluoride treatment, and patient referrals. Increased access to these evidence-based services can help reduce decay rates by 40-60%. The OOHD currently partners with 14 health departments across the state to operate these important NTF programs, mainly located in rural locations.
The Nebraska Early Dental Health Starter Kits program is an educational campaign aimed at parents of newborns. Caregivers of children aged zero to five can receive a Dental Starter Kit that has multiple oral hygiene aids that are age specific. The kits come with an instruction card that explains how and when each item should be used for two minutes twice a day. Other kit materials explain the need to establish a dental home for their child by age one. To date, approximately 50,000 kits have been distributed across the state to birthing hospitals, pediatric clinics, dental offices, community health centers, local health departments, early head starts, WIC programs, home visiting sites, and many other locations.
If you would like additional information about Nebraska Teeth Forever, Nebraska Early Dental Health Starter Kits, or other resources that the DHHS Office of Oral Health provides please visit the Office of Oral Health website here www.dhhs.ne.gov/dental. You can also watch a NE Dental Starter Kit video at this link:https://www.unmc.edu/dentistry/outreach/starter-kits.html