Your Life, Your Health: Women, Infant, and Children Smiles Program
Updated: Tuesday, June 17 2014, 07:17 PM EDT
When it comes to children, dental decay is the single most common chronic disease. In fact, it is five times more common than allergies and seven times more common than asthma. In a push towards improving oral health in Medicaid-eligible children in Upstate New York, the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Smiles Program will be expanding, recently receiving a 3-year grant from the NYS Health Foundation for $167,772. The program’s goal is to help at-risk kids get on the right track when it comes to dental care at an early age.
“We have adequate dental care for older, healthy children. But 3 and under we don’t.” Says pediatrician Dr. Melinda Clark. Dr. Clark pioneered WIC Smiles as a pilot program 2 years ago.
“The younger we can get into their mouth and help families change behavior, help the child change their behavior, the less disease we’re going to see.” She says.
At WIC’s Albany location at 220 Green Street, Dr. Clark meets mothers and their young children on a weekly basis. There, she takes a medical/dental history, talks about healthy eating and drinking, and paints the child’s teeth with a fluoride coating to prevent cavities. After which, she helps set the family up with a dentist in the area. Dr. Clark says dental services for kids under the age of 3 is limited.
“I think it’s just important for our community that we recognize there are these high risk kids that are not getting the care they deserve.” Dr. Clark says.
Studies show 41% of preschoolers in head start and early head start programs are showing signs of cavities. 70% are showing signs of untreated dental decay.
“The kids at the highest risk for having cavities in elementary school and junior high school and into adulthood are the children who have this disease when they’re very young.” Dr. Clark explains. “This program is to help the littlest of children get off to a good start.”