If it weren’t for the University of Hawaii Maui College Dental Assisting Program’s Baby Dental Packet Project, many new parents might not know anything about dental care. Babies aren’t born with teeth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start with good dental habits from the get go.
Hawaii currently ranks dead last among the 50 states when it comes to children’s dental health. We tied with Florida and New Jersey in getting F scores for two consecutive years in the PEW Center 2011 report that looks at eight benchmarks in dental health for kids.
The UH Maui College (UHMC) Dental Assisting Program has been creating and distributing a “Baby Dental Packet” since 2009 – one to every parent of a newborn at Maui Memorial Medical Center. That comes out to approximately 1,900 packets.
The packet contains a brochure designed by UHMC Dental Assisting Program Coordinator Joyce Yamada called “Keep Your Baby Smiling” and a brochure from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, plus a finger cot brush and toothbrush. Now a new grant from Kaiser Permanente Hawaii will allow the school to offer 2,000 packets to pediatric offices and community clinics around Maui.
The good folks at Women Infant Children (WIC) Family Health Services Section of the Maui District Health Office of the State of Hawaii Department of Health have been measuring the efficacy of these packets with their clients. “Their survey findings report 47 percent reported that the only infant dental information they received was from the Baby Dental packets and of those who had some dental knowledge previous to receiving the Baby Packets, 91 percent said they learned half of their dental knowledge from our Baby Packets,” said Yamada. “These clients reported that the packet information changed their awareness of baby dental health needs.”
This spurred Yamada and the Dental Assisting Program to get a grant from Kaiser Permanente Hawaii to provide their information to pediatric offices and community clinics targeting other patients to improve oral care and reduce the state’s tooth decay rates.
The students at UHMC Dental Assisting Program and Seabury Hall compile the packets, while money from the MMMC Foundation, MMMC, Maui County Dental Society members, Maui County Dental Hygienists’ Association, Frank M. and Gertrude R. Doyle Foundation, Dr. Shaun Wright and now Kaiser Permanente Hawaii make their creation possible.
The UH Maui College Dental Assisting Program is an accredited two-semester program that provides students with the skills needed to work in the dental profession. Students are taught in the classroom, while receiving hands-on clinical training at the Maui Oral Health Center and at private practice dental offices on Maui. Accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation (ADACODA), the program accepts 18 qualified applicants each Fall.
“Pediatricians are pleased to have a dental packet to distribute to their families at child visits,” said Kaiser Permanente Pediatrician Felicitas Livaudais. “The lack of fluoridated water, baby bottle tooth decay and compliance with families providing fluoride to their child all present challenges. This packet will be an important tool to help educate families on good oral hygiene early on.”
Pediatric offices and community clinics interested in acquiring the UHMC baby dental packets for their patients may contact the Dental Assisting Program at 984-3663 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.