Nebraska Early Dental Health Starter Kit Educational Program
Apr 26, 2023
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood illness in the United States. Approximately 25% of children in Head Start programs have already experienced dental disease according to Maternal Child Health data. In 2016, the DHHS Office of Oral Health and Dentistry (OOHD) began an educational program aimed at teaching parents and caregivers of newborns how to establish sound daily oral hygiene habits at a very early age.
One of the main offerings of the program is the dental health starter kit. These kits contain age-specific dental cleaning items that with proper use can significantly reduce the cavity-causing bacterial biofilm in the oral cavity. The kits also include information to alert parents of the importance of establishing a dental home for their child by age one and a listing of where reduced-cost dental care can be found in Nebraska.
Each year approximately 25,000 new babies are born in Nebraska. Thousands of these starter kits have already been distributed to dental offices, early head starts, WIC sites, daycares, home visiting programs, community health centers, local health departments, and other locations.
In 2020, this statewide campaign expanded through support from a collaborative partnership with the Nebraska Community Foundation, the Maternal Child Health Block Grant, and the University of Nebraska Medicine College of Dentistry. Additional starter kits are now being delivered to the Children's Medical Center and Associated Physicians health system for their pediatricians to dispense during the periodic well-baby checkups.
On May 17, 2023, a breakthrough in improved communication about dental disease prevention was achieved. The OOHD has begun a major partnership with the Nebraska Hospital Association (NHA) starting with a donation of 10,000 English and Spanish starter kits to send to their birthing hospitals across the state. For the first time, new mothers will receive these kits directly from hospital staff and watch an instructional video before they are released (see QR Code below). Proper daily oral hygiene habits can now start on day one and continue for a lifetime to improve oral health outcomes for all children.
"The Nebraska Hospital Association is proud to be a part of this important public health disease prevention effort," said Jeremy Nordquist, President of the NHA. "Dental health is a critical key to overall physical health, and we are happy to partner with DHHS to deliver these dental kits to the parents of newborns within our 92 member hospitals statewide. These kits will be invaluable in helping new parents know how to protect their children's teeth now and in the future."
Proper oral health habits can prevent dental decay and early childhood caries, an infectious disease that can lead to severe pain, language development delays, malnutrition, and loss of school days.
"Early education and access to preventive services, are the two principal keys to lowering childhood dental disease rates in Nebraska", said State Dental Director, Dr. Charles F. Craft. "Having hospitals and pediatricians directly involved in giving new parents the tools they need to ensure proper oral hygiene for their children will multiply the effectiveness of the education they receive from their dentists and hygienists. The impact of these evidence-based interventions can already be felt as the most recent oral health survey conducted in 2022 indicates dental disease rates for Nebraska children is now below the national average."
To learn more about the Nebraska Early Dental Health Starter Kit Educational Program please visit https://www.unmc.edu/dentistry/outreach/starter-kits.html or scan the QR code below.