NORTH COUNTRY — North Country Health Consortium has launched its Oral Health Education and Connection Project, an early intervention initiative that focuses on children through age 5.

Thanks to funding from New Hampshire Children’s Health Foundation and Northeast Delta Dental Foundation, North Country Health Consortium’s Oral Health Education and Connection Project is providing oral health education and tool kits to parents, teachers and caregivers from preschools and childcare centers that care for infants and children up to age 5 throughout Coos and Northern Grafton Counties.

“Parents and caregivers play an important role in children’s oral health, not only in protecting their child’s baby teeth, but for laying groundwork for good oral health for the rest of the child’s life,” said Annette Cole, public health program manager and certified public health dental hygienist at North Country Health Consortium. “Cavities in baby teeth may seem minor because they eventually fall out, but baby teeth help children to eat, speak and provide framework for the health and positioning of grown-up teeth. Every child is at risk of tooth decay. The good news is that tooth decay is largely preventable.”

Oral health habits begin early and are often retained throughout a lifetime. This point was the motivation behind the Oral Health Education and Connection Project and the decision to provide resources around oral health education to parents, caregivers and teachers who bear the greatest potential to encourage and instill good oral health habits from the start.

North Country Health Consortium will bring childcare providers, preschool teachers and parents the most current information about causes, risk factors, prevention and treatment of early childhood caries. Licensed childcare centers and preschools are offered an oral health session and a toolkit filled with resources and pediatric dental supplies. These resources can be used to train the childcare center or preschool’s future staff and to provide parents with helpful information about preventing early childhood caries.

The project also works with local dental providers to support and encourage accepting young patients to their practice. The first dental visit should occur when the first tooth arrives or by the child’s first birthday. While a traditional dental visit is not likely at this age, a knee-to-knee examination can be performed by the dentist to assess the child’s oral health and to talk with parents about the child’s diet and oral hygiene practices.

This project is being offered to childcare centers and preschools and dental providers in Coos and Northern Grafton Counties; funding extends through July 2022.

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