Delta Dental grant funds oral health program for low-income families

You could say it’s a word of “mouth” campaign for many low-income families who struggle to find affordable dental health options. Southwest Human Development and the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation are leading the charge to stress the importance of caring for children’s oral health.

While low- and no-cost options for children’s dental care exist, for low-income adults the situation is more challenging. In most cases, only severe dental emergencies are covered and preventive care is rarely covered and very hard to find at affordable cost. This leads to dental care being the most common unmet health treatment need, especially among low-income families.

“Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation is focusing its efforts this year on improving the oral health of expectant mothers and their families, which is key as we know that lack of dental care can lead to dire health and financial consequences,” said Sandi Perez, executive director, Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation. “Southwest Human Development is a wonderful partner as they work to ensure more preventive education and access to dental care is available for pregnant women and young families in our community.”

That’s why Southwest Human Development, with the help of the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation, has launched the Oral Health Program for Children, Families and Expectant Mothers. This program will promote oral health, increase knowledge of preventive oral health measures, and increase access to preventive care for pregnant women.

“We want families to be aware of resources available to them that could help improve their children’s oral health,” said Ginger Ward, CEO of Southwest Human Development. “We work with families each and every day throughout the Valley and we want to be able to help provide parents with opportunities to improve good oral health practices, which can help prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy for both mothers and children and help families improve their overall oral health.”

The program is part of Southwest Human Development’s Healthy Families and Head Start/Early Head Start programs. Through this new initiative, staff are working with families to help educate them and explain the benefits of good oral health for children using the Smiles for Life curriculum developed by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. Trained staff will then provide dental health information during regularly occurring playgroups, parent meetings, home visits and in classrooms. The staff will also have on hand resources to offer families guidance on locating the right dental home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 25 percent of children have tooth decay in baby teeth. Periodontal disease during pregnancy can be a contributing factor. Approximately 40 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. have some form of periodontal disease and it is especially prevalent among women on public assistance. The staff will also educate participating pregnant women on the importance of proper oral health before, during and after pregnancy and the prevalence of periodontal disease during pregnancy and its consequences for mother and child.