Talk with a health educator - MaineHealth Learning Resource Center Find health information - MaineHealth Learning Resource Center


MaineHealth’s From the First Tooth Receives Grant to Improve Children’s Oral Health

PORTLAND, ME, March 2014 – MaineHealth is pleased to announce that the Sadie and Harry Davis Foundation (SHDF) recently awarded a grant to MaineHealth to further engage primary care providers in preventing tooth decay, the most common health problem among Maine children.  From the First Tooth, one of MaineHealth’s pediatric health initiatives, received $570,024 from SHDF, which will be used to increase the number of young children in Maine who receive fluoride varnish and oral evaluations in medical settings as well as referrals to dentists. 

“The goal of our work is to assure that children receive fluoride to strengthen their teeth in the first few years of life, when it is most effective, and to link children to dentists where they can receive comprehensive dental care throughout childhood,” said Kneka Smith, director of From the First Tooth. "Children who receive four fluoride varnishes by age four years are less likely to have tooth decay as they age, and now both physicians and dentists are working to make that a reality for children in Maine.”  Since 2011, the percent of MaineCare children receiving four fluoride applications by four years of age has doubled from 7% to over 14% but there is much work to be done.

Part of the effort prior to this grant award was working with 130 medical practices to integrate oral health into well child visits. While that work will continue, dozens of new physicians, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants will be engaged statewide to prevent tooth decay in infants, toddlers and preschool children. A partnership between MaineHealth, Maine General and EMHS assures statewide reach to improve pediatric oral health. 

The SHDF grant will allow From the First Tooth to:

  • Train pediatric medical providers (physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants) in appropriate assessment of oral conditions in their  young pediatric patients and to apply fluoride varnish to teeth – a fast and simple in-office procedure integrated into well child visits
  • Work to increase parental awareness about the benefits of fluoride varnish and its availability in Maine
  • Evaluate the impact that the initiative is having on children across the state

Dr. Jeff Stone, a leading pediatrician from Waterville and a representative of the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is a champion of From the First Tooth.  “In less than a minute I can swab a small amount of fluoride on a child’s teeth, which provides a strong defense against tooth decay caused by a child’s exposure to bacteria combined with frequent exposures to breast milk, formula and solid foods,” said Dr. Stone.  “Even though the guideline is for children to visit a dentist by age one year, typically children don’t go before age three years or older.  That’s why medical providers need to assume a key role in preventing dental problems before they even begin.”

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, LincolnHealth, Maine Mental Health Partners, 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.

About The Sadie and Harry Davis Foundation (SHDF)
The Sadie and Harry Davis Foundation was established through the will of Sadie Davis, who died in 2005. Its mission is to advance the health of Maine’s children, the life-long pursuit of Mrs. Davis’ husband, Dr. Harry E. Davis, a Portland pediatrician for over 40 years.

The large majority of Foundation resources are focused on improving the oral health of Maine children, principally through the From the First Tooth program which the Foundation created in 2008.  The Foundation’s goal is to significantly reduce the incidence of dental disease in Maine by greatly increasing the number of young children who receive preventive oral health care.



For Immediate Release

Kneka Smith, MPH
(207) 661-7560


110 Free Street | Portland, Maine 04101 | (207) 661-7001