According to the Surgeon General’s Oral Health in America report, children miss more than 51 million hours of school each year due to dental-related health conditions. This is a staggering figure, but is reversible. By educating children, parents, caregivers and teachers that oral health is a critical component of a child’s overall health and success in school, we can begin to turn around this trend.
The Loma Linda University Dental Program funded by First 5 Riverside takes that opportunity to do that in honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, a national health observance and throughout the year in their work in Riverside County.
Several First 5 dental grants have been in effect since First 5 began in Riverside County and the oral health of our young children has significantly improved during these years. Dr. Carla Lidner-Baum who has been involved in two of the larger dental grants provided by First 5 Riverside says that during the beginning years, she cried at least once or twice a day over the decay in the mouths of the little children that she screened in Head Starts, daycare centers, preschools or health fairs. Now, she says the picture has improved and that she is more often brought to tears by the stories of gratitude from parents and children and by the new eagerness of families to ensure that their child completes necessary dental treatment. The eagerness of parents to follow through with dental care for their children has replaced what formerly was fear, anxiety, frustration with inabilities to afford care, find pediatric dentists or connect with dental coverage.
- Establish relationships with dentists who are now willing to accept these young children into their practices and who will accept the grant’s reimbursement fees for patients who have no form of dental insurance available to them
- Build relationships with parents who now believe and trust that the grants really will assist them financially and will cover the costs for them that are not covered by Medi-Cal or the family’s minimal insurance coverage
- Assist with directing the families to dental offices that are willing to treat their child, help to set up the appointments and help with all of the financial and insurance forms.
- Educate the families, the caregivers, the teachers and all who are involved with the care of young children about oral health, how to best maintain oral health after decay has occurred and how to prevent decay from every occurring again.
“We should all celebrate and thank First 5 Riverside,” says Dr. Lidner-Baum. “Their years of providing dental grant monies for young children in this county has really benefited the children in more ways than I can describe, but we certainly should celebrate First 5 Riverside especially during this National Children’s Dental Health Month of February. We are all so very grateful!”
The Loma Linda University Dental Program is one of four funded by First 5 Riverside to provide low cost to no cost screenings, treatment and access to dental coverage for Riverside County children through age 5. Other grantees include Loma Linda University Special Needs Dental Care, Borrego Community Health Foundation (serving Nuevo and the Desert) and Palo Verde Unified School District in Blythe. Learn more about First 5 Riverside grantees.