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AAPD/Head Start initiative kicks off in six states

Program focuses on securing a dental home for at-risk infants and children

The new Head Start Dental Home Initiative, developed by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the Office of Head Start, will launch in six states now through October.

According to the AAPD, the partnership was forged to address childhood tooth decay and help parents and caregivers secure quality dental homes for all Head Start children.

"The five-year initiative is designed to provide quality dental homes and the foundation for a lifetime of optimal oral health for Head Start and Early Head Start children," said Dr. Jim Crall, project director. "Oral health is integral to the healthy physical, social-emotional and intellectual development of every child. Unfortunately, many children across America suffer from poor oral health and lack of access to oral health care."

The 2000 Surgeon General's Report, "Oral Health in America," he added, states that not only is dental caries the most common chronic disease of childhood, but that low-income children suffer from twice as much tooth decay as more affluent children.

"Current statistics indicate that 28 percent of all preschoolers between the ages of 2 and 5 suffer from tooth decay, but in Head Start programs, decay rates often range from 30-40 percent in 3-year-olds and 50-60 percent in 4-year-olds," said Dr. Crall. "Head Start leadership, staff and parents have identified poor oral health as the single most important health issue facing Head Start programs nationwide."

"For me, the thrill comes from the excitement of the 4-year-olds as they experience a dental office," said Dr. Nick Rogers, Region VII (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska) oral health consultant and affiliate member of AAPD. "The energy of that age group is challenging but their enthusiasm for everything is contagious. It was not uncommon to see children living with over half their teeth filled with decay and several with draining fistulas. This year, as those 4-year-olds bounced into the office, some struggling with incredible dental issues, I met the challenges with a sense of hope and excitement. Providing a dental home to all children is a huge task and reaching out to their parents is challenging but if that task is broken down into smaller increments, it makes it easier to achieve our goals."

Launches for Connecticut, Maryland, Tennessee, Michigan, Texas and Washington will bring together each state's Head Start Dental Home leadership advisory team and initial groups of mentorship teams for training to establish a common knowledge base for individuals from the dental and Head Start communities.

"Our goal is to work with HS/EHS program officials, partners and consultants to maximize the expertise and unique resources that each partner brings to the Dental Home Initiative," said Dr. Crall. "AAPD believes that these strategic activities will complement and supplement recent HS/EHS oral health efforts and supply a critical missing component—networks of dentists capable of providing quality dental homes that meet the full range of oral heath needs for these infants and children."

The partnership, he added, will also provide parents, caregivers and Head Start staff with the latest evidence-based information on how they can help prevent tooth decay and establish a foundation for a lifetime of oral health.

State leaders will oversee the development of state-wide networks of pediatric dentists and general dentists who will provide dental homes for Head Start and Early Head Start children.

"Participation in the initiative will provide testament that dentists are willing and able to reach out to those in our own communities who have traditionally lacked the resources to care for the oral health of their children," said AAPD President Beverly Largent. "This initiative truly offers the opportunity to provide for the oral health and oral health care for children."

Check out the Head Start Dental Home Web Site at www.aapd.org/headstart for the latest information on initiative-related activities. For more information about opportunities for involvement, contact Head Start Dental Home Project Manager Jan Connelly at jconnelly@aapd.org or log on to www.aapd.org/headstart.

Head Start Dental Home state leaders listed

Contact Head Start Dental Home state leaders to participate in the new programs:

Connecticut—Dr. Doug Keck, 991 State St., New Haven, Conn. 06511; 1-203-787-3669; dougkeck@earthlink.net;

Michigan—Dr. Daniel Briskie, 806 Tuuri Place, Flint, Mich. 48503; 1-810-768-7585; briskie@mottchc.org;

Maryland—Dr. David M. Hasson, 602 Center St., #203, Mt. Airy, Md. 21771; 1-301-829-6588; davidhasson@verizon.net;

Texas—Dr. Paul Kennedy, 6200 Saratoga Blvd., Building No. 1, Corpus Christi, Texas 78414; 1-361-992-9500; pkennedy@gte.net;

Tennessee—Dr. H. Pitts Hinson, 612 Eton Ct., Franklin, Tenn. 37064; 1-615-791-6534; pittshinson@bellsouth.net;

Washington—Dr. Sidney R. Gallegos, 926 S. 348th, Federal Way, Wash. 98003; 1-253-924-0717; doc@sidneyrgallegosdds.com.