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MaineHealth Awarded $1M Grant to Improve Children’s Oral Health

PORTLAND, Maine — July 24, 2015 – MaineHealth has received a grant to improve children’s oral health across the state in the amount of $250,000 per year for a total of $1 million over four years.  Awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the grant recognizes the important connection between maternal and child oral health and is intended to expand access to oral health care for pregnant women and infants.

Tooth decay is one of the largest health problems impacting Maine children.  “Since tooth decay is caused by a bacterial infection typically passed from mother to child, the focus of our work will be on improving the oral health of pregnant women as well as working with new parents so that infants will develop healthy teeth,” said Kneka Smith, MPH, Director of From the First Tooth at MaineHealth. 

Significant barriers make it challenging for many pregnant women and infants to access dental care.  Although national guidelines recommend children begin receiving dental care by one year of age, only 5% of Maine parents report that their children had seen a dentist by their first birthday.  Additionally, few pregnant women report receiving dental care during their pregnancy.  

“For generations, children have suffered from dental problems, but that doesn’t have to be the case for this generation,” said Brian P. Youth, MD, pediatrician and Pediatric Residency Program Director at Maine Medical Center.  ”It’s become standard of care for pediatric medical providers to play a role in the oral health screening of children. This includes applying fluoride varnish to the teeth of infants and children as soon as the first teeth appear, as well as making referrals to dentists.  Our goal is to prevent dental problems before they begin.”

From the First Tooth is a statewide effort to integrate oral health into primary care delivery systems through early interventions by pediatricians and family physicians.  This grant will expand the From the First Tooth initiative, which is funded by the Sadie and Harry Davis Foundation, to include pregnant women and enhance the focus on establishing early dental care for babies.  The focus is on both prevention of dental diseases and expansion of access to dental care.

"It's heartbreaking that so many Maine families aren't able to afford the kind of dental care that pregnant mothers and children need to prevent costly and painful problems down the road.  I commend MaineHealth's From the First Tooth initiative for working to address that need," said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. "These services are a critical component of giving children a healthy start to life, so I'm truly excited that this federal investment will help this program reach more Mainers."

Maine is one of eight states to receive this funding.  Other states include California, Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Virginia and Wisconsin.  From the First Tooth is led and administered by MaineHealth in partnership with MaineGeneral Health and EMHS.

About MaineHealth
MaineHealth is a not-for-profit family of leading high-quality providers and other healthcare organizations working together so their communities are the healthiest in America. Ranked among the nation's top 100 integrated healthcare delivery networks, MaineHealth member organizations include Maine Medical Center, Franklin Community Health Network, LincolnHealth, Maine Behavioral Healthcare, Memorial Hospital, Pen Bay Healthcare, Southern Maine Health Care, Waldo County Healthcare, Western Maine Health, HomeHealth Visiting Nurses, Maine Physician Hospital Organization, NorDx and Synernet. Affiliates of MaineHealth include MaineGeneral Health, Mid Coast Health Services, New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland and St. Mary's Health System.


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