Head Start kids to get dental lift


POSTED: Saturday, May 23, 2009

Children in Hawaii's Head Start programs will get a “;head start”; for healthy teeth under a national program.





        Tips from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry to help protect children from tooth decay:

» Pretzels, pasta and other cooked starches, like sugar, can lead to cavities. They are safer for teeth if eaten with a meal (instead of as a snack) because more saliva is produced that washes away starches and sugars.


» Germs that cause cavities can be passed from utensils, cups or other objects, so they should be washed thoroughly before sharing with children.


» Don't put a young child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice, and older kids should drink only water between meals. Kids are exposed to a higher risk of decay when they sip sugared beverages for extended periods.


» “;Don't be afraid of chocolate milk,”; which provides protein, calcium and vitamins and washes off teeth the same as regular milk.


» Look for bottled water with added fluoride because “;water with fluoride is the No. 1 way to prevent tooth decay.”;


» Children should see a dentist shortly after their first tooth or before their first birthday because decay can start as soon as a tooth appears.




Hawaii is one of 11 states chosen this year for a five-year, $10 million effort launched in February 2007 to establish a network of dentists to fight tooth decay—the leading health problem in Head Start children.

Hawaii children have one of the worst decay rates in the nation because there is no fluoride in community water except on military bases, said Pearl City pediatric dentist Lynn Fujimoto, of the Hawaii Dental Association. Sugary drinks favored by children do not help, she added.

Dr. Beverly Largent, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry president, and Dr. Paul Kennedy Jr., president of Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children, sponsored by the academy's foundation, announced the Hawaii project this week at the Early Head Start and Head Start programs at Kuhio Park Terrace.

In an interview, Largent said, “;Our goal is to find and make relationships with dentists and Head Start centers so dentists can provide treatment to children.”;

She said her organization is concerned that with job layoffs and other economic problems, families will forgo dental screening for children. “;Certainly, pro bono dentistry helps people in acute situations, but it is not the solution to access to care.

“;What we are promoting is access to everyone. We feel the Head Start project is a wonderful place to start.”;

Fujimoto, president of the Hawaii Pediatric Dentists, said Hawaii's Early Head Start and Head Start programs serve about 3,000 children in low-income families from newborns to preschoolers. The program offers early-education classes, parent involvement, health and social services for families and now, hopefully, a “;dental home.”;

She said the Hawaii Dental Association is trying to identify dentists statewide to participate in the program and help train those who usually do not see young children. There are a little more than 30 pediatric dentists in the state, she said.

Kennedy said all 50 states are expected to be part of the project in the next two years, and Johnson & Johnson has donated $600,000, in addition to the federal money, to establish “;dental homes”; for the nation's 1 million Head Start children.

“;We know if we start with young children we can change the food and oral hygiene habits of the family. ... We're trying to get parents to understand a dental home is where a child needs to go on a regular basis, and once they come under routine care, we know their oral health will improve dramatically over five years,”; he said.

Children's oral health is among major topics discussed at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, which opened Thursday and continues through tomorrow at the Hawai'i Convention Center.