Oral health is an important component of our children’s wellbeing in Early Childhood. It affects everything from eating to a thriving immune system for our children. Within the first 90 days of programming, all our kids are required to have their teeth screened. To ensure they have the immediate care they might require, we have partnered with the NYU Dentistry – Department of Pediatric Dentistry and the Columbia University – College of Dental Medicine, both provide dental visits to our Early Childhood centers in Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Bronx. This allows families who do not yet have a dental home to have the same quality dental exam as those that do.
“Lack of access to affordable and effective preventive oral health care continues to be a serious unmet need among children in minority, low-income, and vulnerable populations. Early childhood caries remains the number one chronic disease of childhood, and untreated can lead to many life-long medical, nutritional. and social challenges,” says Department of Pediatric Dentistry Outreach Program Administrator Samantha Shrager. “Children's Aid Early Childhood Program partners with the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at NYU College of Dentistry to provide preventive dental care to children in our program. These services not only help bring much needed dental care to our kids, but also expose NYU dental students to working with young children in underserved community based settings.”
The visits provide a warm dental experience for children and their guardians. The dental team is made up of a team of students along with a Pediatric Dental faculty member who can oversee their work throughout the visit. Children receive a dental exam (without x-rays), a toothbrush cleaning and have fluoride varnish applied to their teeth. Should the dental exam show that a child needs further care, a referral is given to the family to dental services in the community for follow up. The dental team also run an oral health education presentation for the kids that involves puppets and toothbrushes, reminding kids that brushing is fun and important. And families are provided with reading materials and a workshop to ensure children and family members stay healthy.
In addition, Children’s Aid Early Childhood program has a home-based infant to toddler division. Therefore it is imperative that families understand the importance of oral health even before teeth become visible in their baby’s mouth.
“We educate and help families establish healthy dental habits along with our partnership in Early Childhood to prevent any tooth pain and oral disease later on in life,” says Children’s Aid Early Childhood Health Coordinator Monica Rossi. “Healthy baby teeth means healthy adulthood smiles.”