Oral health initative aims to curb childhood dental decay

NEGAUNEE TOWNSHIP — Dental decay is the most common childhood chronic disease. More children in the U.P. are affected by it than anywhere else in the state.

The Marquette County Health Department is aiming to change that, however, with the U.P. Wide Smiles Oral Health Initiative. Made possible by a grant from the Superior Health Foundation, the initiative aims to expand education and outreach across the U.P.

Dr. Terry Frankovich, Medical Director for Local Public Health, said, “Certainly treatment of dental disease is important, but we want to do is prevent kids from getting dental disease in the first place. One of the important ways to do that is through fluoride. We know that fluoride is a great dental tool to prevent decay, and many kids in the U.P. don’t have access to adequate levels of fluoride either because they’re on well water or because their municipal water isn’t fluoridated.”

“We’re also looking at getting fluoride mouth rinses in a lot of the elementary schools, that don’t have fluoride in the water, across the U.P,” added Rebecca Maino, project coordinator for the U.P. Wide Smiles Oral Health Initiative.

Part of the grant is used for fluoride varnish that can be applied to a child’s teeth to help prevent early childhood caries, or cavities.

Sugary drinks and snacks, as well as access to a baby bottle or sippy cup in the overnight contribute to caries and decay the baby teeth.

Maino said, “A lot of caregivers think, ‘Well, they’re just going to fall out anyway,’ but it’s real important that they do take care of those baby teeth also because the baby teeth help them speak, and chew and eat properly, and it gives their face shape, and health, and it also reserves the space for the permanent teeth that are all already forming under the gums. The children do need healthy baby teeth also.”

As the name implies, the initiative is U.P.-wide, which means parents and caregivers don’t have to travel across the region for an appointment.