Toothaches are no fun. You can’t eat. You can’t focus at work. It’s hard to sleep. You get crabby and just want the pain to stop.
Now, imagine a young child experiencing chronic tooth pain who hasn’t learned how to express their emotions or needs. They may act out, not listen, or withdraw, impacting their ability to learn, school performance and behavior.
Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic childhood disease. If left untreated, it can lead to issues as an adult. It’s been linked to heart disease and diabetes. Some studies even show that crooked or missing teeth can impact job prospects and lifetime earnings.
The good news is that this disease is preventable, if children can access care. But for far too many, seeing a dentist isn’t an easy option.
That’s why SWIF launched the Early Childhood Dental Network-SW (ECDN-SW) as an expansion of our 16 Early Childhood Initiative coalitions. ECDN-SW is supported in part by the Otto Bremer Foundation and was started by West Central Initiative, our Fergus-Falls based Minnesota Initiative Foundation partner.
One of the goals is to improve access to timely, appropriate and affordable dental care for young children. There are 66,000 kids age 18 and under in our region and over a third are on public insurance. There are 116 licensed dentists practicing in southwest Minnesota and only a handful accept public insurance.
“We’re bringing in mobile dental units and setting up visits for children to receive care, often from dentists volunteering their time,” said coordinator Michelle Randt.
The program also promotes awareness and education. Wiping gums, brushing teeth, flossing and using fluoride can prevent tooth problems before they start. Our coalitions are giving out oral health kits at schools, child care centers, family expos and home visits.
What can you do?
- Join our advisory team. We currently meet in Marshall, Redwood Falls, Willmar and Worthington and need more people to get involved!
- Attend a training. Check out our online events calendar for locations.
- Visit our website for materials and links. Information can be printed on-demand through the LEARN tab.
- Share the message! The American Dental Association recommends children have their first dental visit by age 1.