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February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and a great time to remember that establishing good oral and dental hygiene habits early is critical to a child’s overall health and well-being. In North Carolina, we have a nationally recognized program dedicated to helping our youngest residents receive quality dental care.
“Into the Mouths of Babes,” or IMB, is a successful program that trains medical professionals to provide oral care as part of well-child visits when the first tooth emerges. IMB provides tools to make sure children are getting proper dental hygiene before problems start: That means providing fluoride varnishes, making dental referrals and providing oral health information to caregivers.
Since North Carolina Medicaid implemented the program in the early 2000s, childhood dental cavity rates in our state have declined swiftly. On average, children receiving the service before age 3 show an 18% reduction in tooth decay, and a 21% reduction in hospitalizations for dental treatment.
As a result of this collaboration between Medicaid, policymakers, the primary care community and the dental community, North Carolina now ranks third best nationally in the percentage of Medicaid-enrolled children under age 5 who receive oral preventive care.
As we celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month this February, let’s remember that it’s never too early to start preventing cavities.
Martha Ann Keels, DDS
Shauna Guthrie, MD
Andrew Perry, DDS
Dr. Keels is a member of the N.C. Pediatric Society. Dr. Guthrie is a board member of the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Perry is 4th District past president of the N.C. Dental Society.