In the past, many young children had difficulty beginning
routine dental care at age 1, near the time when a child’s first tooth appears.
When many parents of young children contacted private dental practices, they were
told to wait until their child is 3 years old before scheduling a routine exam.
Thanks to a partnership with the dental clinic at the Children’s Hospital of
Pittsburgh of UPMC, young children enrolled in the Family Foundations Early
Head Start (EHS) program can now receive dental examinations and treatment
during these early developmental years.
For three mornings every month, Brian Martin, DMD and Heather
Baumhardt, DDS offer dental services at the Lawrenceville clinic to children
enrolled in Early Head Start. EHS provides transportation for all families who
would otherwise have difficulty getting to the clinic, and enrolled children
are accompanied by their parent and a home visitor for the appointment. Preregistration
is required and is handled by each site’s coordinator and staff.
Mothers play an active role in the dental visit by providing
the dentist with their child’s medical history and raising any questions and
concerns they have about their child’s teeth. They can also sit in the dentist’s
chair with their child during the visit, providing a sense of security and
comfort as the dentist begins to examine and clean the child’s teeth. During
the visit, parents learn effective techniques for brushing their young child’s
teeth in order to avoid significant decay that could require dental follow-up. Dentists
also give parents an idea of what to expect as additional teeth erupt or if
additional restorative care is required.
According to Dr. Martin, a healthy diet is particularly
important for young children’s dental hygiene. Young teeth are vulnerable to
decay when they are frequently exposed to sugary drinks such as fruit juice,
flavored milk, and soda. Dr. Martin advises parents to only offer children
fruit juice during meal times in order to limit their intake.
Dr. Martin and Dr. Baumhardt also offer restorative work for
children who already experience early childhood cavities. Unfortunately, some
children who were not seen when their first teeth erupted are now being seen
for extensive dental repair work. Parents and Home Visitors are instructed on
the care that will be delivered for each of these children in order to restore
their teeth and mouth to a healthier state.
In addition to focusing on early childhood dental health,
Early Head Start emphasizes the importance of dental care for pregnant mothers,
encouraging dental visits for cleanings and exams every six months. Improving
the oral health of expectant and new mothers promotes healthy dental care and can
reduce the transmission of bacteria from mother to infant.
Early Head Start continues to keep the medical
and dental wellness of families a main priority by working with numerous Pittsburgh-area
organizations such as the Children’s Hospital to meet the needs of enrolled