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Published: Tuesday, 9/6/2005

Dental center aims to educate parents, follow up

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lindy Cree doesn t have all the statistics related to childhood tooth decay committed to memory. What she does have is stories.

The story, for example, of the little Toledo boy who needed 17 of his 20 baby teeth worked on or pulled out.

He had so much decay and infection, said Ms. Cree, president of the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio. No parent wants their child to be in pain or uncomfortable, but sometimes, the parent just doesn t know.

Teaching parents the importance of proper dental care for their children is one of the goals of a new center created with the help of the Toledo Community Foundation. The Dental Resource Center was established to provide education, case management, and, in some cases, referrals to area dental clinics.

The center was established by the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio and will be funded over the next three years through a $372,830 grant from the foundation. The center will target low-income families with children under 5 years old who can t afford dental care.

More importantly, the center will stay involved by hiring case workers to keep in touch with families. The center has connected with various area agencies that offer services to families with young children, including Head Start, Lucas County Family Council s Help Me Grow program, Toledo Public School Early Childhood Education program, the Neighborhood Health Association, and the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

We re working with the local agencies so that when case workers go into a home and are working with young parents, they can assess needs, Ms. Cree said.

The Toledo Community Foundation first recognized the problem of childhood dental care last year. In November, it called on the community to come up with solutions. Foundation President Keith Burwell said yesterday the group is pleased with the result.

A condition of the grant is that the center build its own resources over the next three years so as to continue providing services once the grant money has run out.

To do that, data will be collected so the state can be approached, Mr. Burwell said.

Part of the reason is to have this quantifiable data is to go to the state and say, We need this to be financed, he said. We don t need kids with cavities starting kindergarten and then expect them to fulfill the requirements set for schools.

Ms. Cree said new studies recommend children have their first dental exam by age 1. She said of the 16,000 children under age 5 in low-income families throughout Lucas County, the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio saw only about 500 last year.

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department s dental clinic saw others, but usually, only when a form is required by the schools, said Dr. Debbie Frogameni, a dentist there.

We are now encouraging all children to come and see us as soon as they have teeth, Dr. Frogameni said. While we won t do any restorative work, we are going to educate them on what they should be doing to prevent oral decay.

Contact Erica Blake at:eblake@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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