The Delta Health Alliance

Cavity Free Kids Comes to MSU

Posted on: February 17, 2010

Oral health is something to be concerned about from the day a child is born.  Even before a child’s first teeth appear, harmful bacteria can be introduced to the child’s mouth via caregivers.  If left untreated, bacteria in the mouth can cause plaque, spots on enamel, cavities, pain and infections that can result in emergency procedures and sometimes even death.

The Delta Oral Health Project, funded by the Delta Health Alliance, aims to increase the use of oral health services by children and families in the Mississippi Delta.  The Delta Health Alliance supports health and wellness initiatives that target the Mississippi Delta.  Delta Oral Health Project staff consist of researchers from the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University and personnel from the Mississippi State Department of Health.  “Oral health is an important component to healthy lifestyles.  The Delta Oral Health Project brings education and services to people that would not otherwise have them,” stated Dr. Karen Fox, President and CEO of DHA.

On Tuesday, October 27, 2009, an oral health seminar was held at the Mississippi State Department of Health in Jackson.  Seminar participants included 50 health and child care professionals from each of the nine public health districts.

Trainers from the Washington Dental Service (WDS) Foundation came to Mississippi and presented their Cavity Free Kids curriculum.  Participants were provided with innovative, hands-on oral health educational materials that can be used with parents and children to emphasize the importance of good oral health.
“One component of this effort is providing training for child care and public health professionals, who now have an engaging curriculum to further oral health education among children and parents in the Delta.  By communicating best oral health practices, children are more likely to receive needed dental care,” said Heather Hanna, Delta Oral Health Project Director and Researcher at the Social Science Research Center.

Ms. Carla Bassett, RDH, commented, “By using Cavity Free Kids, we hope to train non-dental professionals on these facts, so they may train the people around them and promote the importance of oral health. We want them to know a portion of what the department knows.” Bassett is the Branch Director II for the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Office of Oral Health.

The Cavity Free Kids trainers included Karri Amundson, the project manager, Tammy Questi, a dental hygienist and Becky Huntley, an early childhood specialist.

Questi addressed common issues with children’s oral health and presented ways to correct these behaviors.  She talked about foods that promote tooth decay and noted that ignoring poor oral health can cause potentially serious problems.

Huntley demonstrated for participants how much sugar a child can consume on a typical day eating snacks and meals, some healthy and some not.  The total amount for the day was startwhen put in visual form.  The CFK curriculum focuses on demonstrations for easier learning.

Another activity that specifically targets preschool children involves Tommy the Tooth.  He is a large tooth cut-out. With him, Huntley showed the participants how they could demonstrate teeth cleaning in a fun, effective manner.

Dr. Nicholas Mosca, State Dental Director with the Mississippi State Department of Health noted that this type of educational program for child care staff, parents and other professionals who interact with young children is imperative becone to two years old; the age of three is too latpiece of the puzzle in preventing tooth decay.”