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IDOH program aims to give Hoosier children a smile

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Feb 18, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — A trip to the dentist can be scary for kids and an Indiana Department of Health initiative is trying to change that.

“Getting the proper dental care has always been an issue. Even though we have great Medicaid for children, we see parents put it off. They don’t realize that their child should start seeing the dentist at age one and then every six months after that," Executive Director of Delta Dental Holli Seabury said.

8 and 6-year-olds Lilah and William were at the Central Library Saturday for Hoosiers: Give Kids a Smile.

The program is a collaborative effort between IDOH and the Indiana Dental Association, dental care providers, pediatricians and more.

“If we don’t brush your teeth twice a day, nighttime and morning, then we might get cavities and we’re gonna have to go to the dentist and get really scary things stuck in your tooth," Lilah said.

Throughout the month of February, participating sites will offer a variety of services, ranging from education to free dental screenings, for children without insurance.

Seabury says the goal is to distribute 10,000 oral health kits to children across the state.

“You can always find dental care for your child and there are people who will help you do that, help you navigate the system, help get your child signed up for Medicaid if that’s what’s you need," she said.

Untreated tooth decay affects one in five Indiana children, with four in 10 having tooth decay by the time they enter kindergarten, according to the CDC.

That’s why experts recommend they should be brushing their teeth at least twice a day and don't forget to floss.

“The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body," Jill Malmgren with America’s ToothFairy said.

Saturday also marked the launch of a new program called Storytime Smiles.

The initiative, made possible by a $75,000 grant from the Delta Dental Foundation, provides superhero-themed education kits for libraries that include:

• Three dental-themed books that promote good oral health behaviors.
• Storytime lesson plan.
• Activity booklets that include oral health tips and age-appropriate activities.
• A brochure for caregivers with oral health tips for the whole family.
• Bookmarks with oral health tips.
• Superhero capes and masks.
• Brushing chart magnetic dry erase boards.
• Toothbrushes.

“This is a great way to introduce oral health to young children in a fun atmosphere," Malmgren said.

Through the program, over 40 libraries across the Hoosier state will hold story hours, during which they’ll be reading three books with a focus on oral health.

“We have a couple of books that are focused on allaying that fear and helping kids understand what happens at the dentist and also what they can do at home. We’ve taken a a superhero themed approach to this. We’re passing out capes and masks," she said.

Something that was a lot of fun for William and his sister.

“If you brush your teeth twice a day you won’t have cavities, you’ll just wiggle your tooth and get more money," William said.

If you missed Saturday's services, don't stress.

Your next opportunity is from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. EST Tuesday, Feb. 21 at the Indiana University School of Dentistry, 1121 W. Michigan St., Indianapolis.

There will be free dental screenings and kits, X-rays, and preventive care in the Pediatric Predoctoral Clinic on the second floor.