Donation helps dental care program

ESCANABA — The Menominee Delta Schoolcraft Community Action Agency (MDS CAA) Early Childhood Program received as donation from Dr. Steven Ouwinga to help encourage parents to start dental care from the beginning of life.

The program provides Early Head Start services to pregnant women, children birth to age three and their families, as well as preschool services through Head Start and the Great Start Readiness Program. Under federal program performance standards Head Start and Early Head Start programs are required to help children obtain early medical and dental care and stay up to date on the schedule according to the Michigan Early and Periodic Screening and Developmental Assessment Schedule (EPSDT).

According to both EPSDT and the American Dental Association, children should get their first dental exam as soon as the first teeth erupt or no later than age one. Many factors can make this hard for families including lack of insurance, lack of dental providers for very young children, and fear around going to the dentist.

To help ease some of the fear around going to the dentist, the staff created a dental bag project for families enrolled in the program. A bag will be given to each child to take home and use with their families. The bag will have a children’s book about going to the dentist, a new toothbrush, a tooth brushing timer, and charts to track tooth brushing and drinking water.

To help parents and children engage in dramatic play around going to the dentist, Dr. Ouwinga donated paper dental masks, and dental mirrors as well as toothpaste. Reading to children and participating in dramatic play to act it out can really help to ease anxiety about what will happen when they visit the dentist.

The program is also getting assistance from the Escanaba High School Key Club to assemble the bags in hopes that they can go home to parents at the beginning of November.