Early Childhood Programs
Why is Oral Health Important?
Early Childhood Cavities (ECC) is tooth decay that occurs in the baby teeth of children under the age of five. Tooth decay causes pain and infection. Unfortunately, some children live with this pain every day. Some parents and caregivers do not recognize the important role that baby teeth play in healthy development. The baby teeth are important for eating, holding space for the permanent teeth, talking, and smiling. ECC adversely impacts development and learning and can affect what a child is able to eat, how they learn to speak and ultimately how they feel about themselves. Such an impact can result in poor overall health and well-being. A child cannot be truly healthy if he or she has poor oral health.
The Division of Oral Health at the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control has developed materials and trainings that can be used within early childhood settings including home visitation programs and Early Head Start/Head Start to reach parents and young children.
Oral Health and Home Visitation
Currently the national home visitation program models utilized in South Carolina provide young at-risk parents and families with trained personnel that help with the development of parenting skills and support the provide families with the resources needed to care for young children. Oral health is not specifically addressed. However, through a pilot project funded by the DentaQuest Foundation at the Children’s Center at Carolina Health Centers, oral health was integrated and successfully implemented within several program models. By including preventive oral health training and resources, home visitors can help parents acquire the skills needed to address the oral health needs of their children.
The Connecting Smiles Toolkit for Home Visitors provides anyone who works with young children and families the tools they need to educate and empower parents to positively impact their child’s oral health. The materials and resources include: an Oral Health Behavioral Assessment (OHBA) Tool, readiness based Goal Setting sheet, and dual language developmentally appropriate parent information one-pagers.
Oral Health and Early Head Start/Head Start
Early Head Start and Head Start (EHS/HS) programs have been longtime advocates of oral health. By providing center-based tooth brushing programs and ongoing classroom and parent education, EHS/HS programs strengthen the oral health of the families they serve. The Division of Oral Health at the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control provides certified trainings for EHS/HS center staff to equip them with the knowledge and the resources needed to make a positive impact on oral health.