NorthShore Health Centers Form “My First Tooth” Coalition to Battle Early Childhood Tooth Decay

NorthShore Health Centers Form “My First Tooth” Coalition to Battle Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Visits to the dentist rate pretty low on the priorities list for some families in the United States. 60% of our children will experience dental decay before the age of five.

NorthShore Health Centers have had enough. They invite members of the community, organizations willing to become partners, and individuals seeking enlightenment to join the “My First Tooth” coalition in a battle against Early Childhood Caries. January 18th was meeting zero: an opportunity to introduce prospective members to the reasons they should care.

“We are super excited to form [the coalition],” said Denise Carpenter, Lead Community Outreach Coordinator for NorthShore Health Centers. “We have a great Family Care program and a great Dental program. Since it is an issue that is a bit of an epidemic, we’re a perfect fit.”

The idea was inspired by a day long convention in Indianapolis.

“We decided the information was so important we needed to share it, especially with what we do,” said Jackie Hogan, newly appointed Site Manager for the Hammond branch.

Hogan organized what she and her fellow attendees (Michelle Higel and Dr. Brian Douts), learned from the convention into a slideshow presentation. Hogan’s Powerpoint exposed risk factors for tooth decay in youth that are generally overlooked. It covered stages of tooth decay, complications from poor hygiene, and the elements standing in the way of a family’s dental health.

“A lot of people are still under the impression that you don’t have to bring a child to a dentist before three years old,” Hogan explained.

The American Dental Association has changed that recommendation from the age of five to one. Something as innocent as a bottle of milk at bedtime could have a lasting effect on the permanent teeth that have not even grown in yet. The number of children that have a dental carie before the age of five increases every year.

“We’re not going to drill our way out of this,” said Dr. Brian Douts, a dentist at the Hammond NorthShore location. “Without prevention, we are not going to win this battle. We so often hear, ‘Oh, it runs in my family.’ Our reply to that is: bad habits run in a family, not bad teeth. It’s not necessarily genetics.”

Even one visit to the dentist a year can spare a child hours of uncomfortable dental work, the anxiety of teeth that are not aesthetically pleasing, or the repercussions of an un-diagnosed oral infection. One visit means an education about proper hygiene. Mistakes can be corrected. Preventative measures can be taken.

That is what the My First Tooth coalition will be brainstorming.

“The mission is going to be to reduce early caries in young children and to improve the oral healthcare of the whole family,” said Family Care Coordinator Michelle Higel. “The coalition is going to bring together anyone invested in the health of children and families, to discover the barriers preventing them from getting to the Dentist. Instead of only making an impact on the oral health of NorthShore patients, we want to have an impact through all of Northwest Indiana.”

For more information on the programs and services offered by Northshore Health Centers, click here.