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Something to smile about

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Harrison Medical Center in Silverdale and Washington State SmilePartners are hoping a new, joint program will have expectant moms and newborns grinning.

Mom and Me, Cavity Free is a one-of-its-kind program taking place at Harrison and will seek to offer preventative dental care to young mothers and children.

“The whole idea of this program is to get moms’ mouths healthy (so they won’t pass dental diseases onto their kids),” SmilePartners Program Director Kate Mills said. “We think we can get kids at least to age 2 without cavities in 100 percent of the kids we treat.”

SmilePartners was the recent recipient of a $50,000 grant from the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation and sought out Harrison as a venue for the program. The delivery center at Harrison will provide a logical location for the program to operate and the hospital setting assures that SmilePartners employees can operate the program without supervision from a dentist.

SmilePartners is a nonprofit organization of dental hygienists based on Bainbridge Island that seeks to provide oral disease prevention services to kids, pregnant women and seniors.

Pediatric oral disease is the No. 1 chronic childhood disease in the country, according to a recent news release from Harrison.

Kitsap County is particularly notorious for poor dental health, Mills said. In fact, “it’s at crisis stage.”

Many kids are admitted to Harrison for dental surgery each year and Mills is convinced the program could change that.

“Prevention is so easy and inexpensive,” she said.

People new to the program will undergo a bit of a process before receiving dental care, however.

New patients are asked to set up an appointment and head over to SmilePartners’ “mobile” exam room at Harrison.

“It will look just like a dentist’s office,” Mills said.

Workers will look into a patient’s medical history and identify pertinent dental and prenatal history that could help identify any problem areas for a mother and newborn child.

After that, patients undergo a “screening and assessment,” which is “not really an exam,” but gives a general idea of the kind of care mother and child will need, Mills said.

If no major problems are identified, SmilePartners workers will perform a teeth cleaning and ideally plan two future appointments with the mother and her child; one at the eighth month of pregnancy and another one month after the child is born. Workers with the program also will be compiling a database to explore trends in dental health, hence the specified dates.

Mom and Me is a two-year pilot program and SmilePartners workers plan to track as many moms and children as possible during that period to obtain data.

“We want to be able to follow them because the whole idea of this program is to prevent cavities in babies,” Mills said. “Of course, we won’t turn anyone away.”

That includes people who may be financially strapped. SmilePartners is willing to take anyone who can provide proof of dental insurance or Medicaid.

The program also is working to secure grant money for people without those resources, Mills said.

The program is still young, but SmilePartners and Harrison are hoping it will have a big impact and catch on in other areas.

“We’d like this to be a model program that can be modeled around the state,” Mills said.

For more information, call (360) 689-3338 or (206) 909-1365..

Mom and Me, Cavity Free info

What: Dental health program for pregnant women and newborn babies

When: Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Harrison Medical Center in Silverdale, Room 21

Phone: (360) 689-3338 or (206) 909-1365.

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