Upper Valley Program Teaches Children to “Be in Charge of Their Own Dental Health”

Excerpts from Valley News article “Upper Valley Program Teaches Children to ‘Be in Charge of Their Own Dental Health’” published April 11, 2011.

Dental Disease has been called a silent epidemic that affects up to 23 percent of the nation’s children and nearly half the adult population who fall below the federal poverty line…

As with many other diseases, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and both dental and medical professionals are working to improve access to dental care for children and adults. In this region, Upper Valley Smiles, a program in Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital’s Department of Community Health brings dental care and screening into the Lebanon, Canaan, Enfield and White River Junction school districts for uninsured or under-insured children in grades K through 3…

The way Upper Valley Smiles works is this: a team of a dentist, hygienist and an assistant go into a school once a year to screen children, who have been given permission to attend by their parents, for such dental issues as cavities, injuries that have resulted in trauma to the mouth and teeth and poorly positioned teeth or abscesses.

“We determine which children are at risk and identify those teeth that need restorative attention or sealants, and everybody gets a fluoride varnish,” said Dr. Bob Keene, a Hanover resident and the dentist currently affiliated with Upper Valley Smiles.

The idea, Keene said, is to “teach people to be in charge of their own dental health.” Dentistry is “the art of behavior modification.” Children need constant reminders to brush at least twice daily and to floss. At the screenings, he and the hygienist try to “teach, encourage and help kids learn the skills they need to maintain a life of comfort and health.” Children are also given a handout for maintaining good dental practices at home…

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