It’s estimated 17 million U.S. American children don’t receive dental care on an annual basis, making dental care the most common unmet health need of children in the nation, according to the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation. “Tooth decay is not only one of the most prevalent issues in children’s health, it’s also one of the most easily preventable,” said SMIF’s Vice President of Early Childhood Rae Jean Hansen. “However, if left untreated, it can lead to a lifetime of health problems. The goal of the Early Childhood Dental Network is to increase awareness around the rising childhood oral health issue and to utilize our Early Childhood Initiative groups to work on solutions.”

Childhood tooth decay is yet another area more likely to affect low-income children. Children aged 2 to 9 living below the poverty line are twice as likely to suffer tooth decay and are twice as likely to have it go untreated. SMIF has received two grants from the Otto Bremer Trust to support this work.

Holly Jorgensen of Let's Smile, Inc. and Isabella, age 4, after a teeth cleaning and fluoride varnish through a partnership between SMIF's Martin County Early Childhood Dental Network and Let's Smile Inc.

Big Smiles in Martin County

SMIF's Martin County Early Childhood Dental Network partnered with Let's Smile, Inc. to provide teeth cleaning and fluoride varnishes to 10 kids under the age of 5 at Fairmont Elementary School. Let’s Smile’s mission is to help children who have no insurance, or who are on state Medical Assistance.

The Early Childhood Dental Network began in Martin County in 2016 with a grant from SMIF. They’ve also partnered with the county public health office to send a letter from the “tooth fairy” to parents with one-year-olds, letting them know they need to start visiting a dentist as soon as teeth come in. Additionally, they’ve placed children’s books on caring for teeth at dentist offices and given hand-outs at regional fairs.

“Martin County’s Early Childhood Dental Network is getting creative to address both the awareness and access issues around the importance of early oral hygiene,” said Teri Steckelberg, Early Childhood Director at SMIF.

Resources for Early Childhood Dental Network Partners

General Fact Sheet

First Visit to the Dentist: Advice to Parents

Why Age One?

Drink Tips for Healthy Smiles

Tooth Tips for Pregnant Women

Tooth Tips for Babies (BBTD)

Tooth Tips for Infants & Toddlers

Tooth Tips for Preschoolers

ECDN Bottle + Bed Campaign Piece

Download, fill out with appropriate contact information, and print for ECDN meetings.

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