Valerie Heal health coordinator for the child development program at Penquis talks about why baby teeth are important.Valerie Heal, RN, MS – The Importance of Baby TeethÂ· My role at Penquis: Health Coordinator for the Child Development Program that operates Child Care/Head Start/Early Head Start programs in Penobscot/ Piscataquis, and Head Start Programs in Knox counties.Â· Head Start/Early HS have health systems built into them that include supporting families of young children in providing optimal preventive care for their children. Â· We find that oral health is one of the areas our families in all three counties struggle with the most.Â· We occasionally encounter the myth that baby teeth aren’t important.Â· We know they are essential for:o Trying/eating healthy foods when life-time dietary habits are being formed. o Forming sounds and learning to talk without developing speech problems.o Holding the space alignment in the jaw so that the permanent teeth come in straight.Â· We also know baby teeth can get sick.o Strep mutans is the germ that acts with the sugar and plaque in the mouth to cause decay. o Infection in the teeth is infection in the body as a whole.o Besides interfering with the function of the teeth, untreated tooth abscesses in young children are very uncomfortable and dangerous.Â· We work to ensure our enrolled parents have the needed information and resources to be successful in meeting their young child’s oral health needs.o Knowing the importance of cleaning teeth at least twice daily from the time the first ones appear.Â§ Washcloths, soft brushes Â§ “Tenders OK, but with cautions.”o Having healthy nutrition habits/resourceso Knowing how to spot the early whiter areas of decay.o Knowing how and where to establish a dental home and get a professional exam with a dentist by age 1 year.Â· Maine’s special resource challengeo Shortage of pediatric oral health professionals in Maineo Many who see young children, do not accept MaineCare reimbursementÂ· Maine’s special opportunityo Medical Care Development working in conjunction with the Maine Dental Access Coalition was awarded a small one year Federal Head Start Dental Homes Initiative grant to increase the access to dental homes for young children . o The money is being used, along with a lot of good will from Maine’s oral health l community to establish a system to provide mentor training/opportunities to Maine dentists experienced in working with toddlers and preschoolers who can then pass on their practice tips to others who would like to successfully include younger family members in their practices. o This will include a free clinic young child exam opportunity for families in the greater Bangor area in May of this year.o For more information about the Dental Homes Initiative, families and dentists are encouraged to visit our web site at www.Penquis.org or are welcome to contact me at Penquis by e-mail: [email protected] or by phone at 974-2483 or 1-800-215-4942.