Health Check Kids: Teeth First

    Teeth First is looking to expand its reach. (WJAR)

    Teeth First is looking to expand its reach.

    "It's not too early to take your child to the dentist before age one -- and those critical years between one and three," said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, who is the executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count.

    As the lead agency for Teeth First, RI Kids Count is spreading the message.

    "We need that early foundation of high-quality oral health care and hygiene that paves the way for really strong baby teeth and then adult teeth to follow," said Burke Bryant.

    The Teeth First campaign, which is a collaboration of several agencies, began in 2011. But, even before that, the state launched RIte Smiles.

    "Which is kind of like a RIte Care for dental care,” said Burke Bryant. “And as a result, we have seen our oral health outcomes improve for kids and we've also seen more dentists willing to participate."

    Before RIte Smiles, Burke Bryant said there were 27 dentists in Rhode Island who were willing to see Medicaid covered patients. Now, she said, there are 385 dentists.

    Teeth First is an extension of that.

    To help get children excited about brushing their teeth, Teeth First reaches out to dental and medical practices, and more recently, day care and early learning centers with educational materials.

    "They contact me and then I'm able to put together a packet for them which would include a bilingual lesson plan. It included bilingual activity sheets. We have four total," said Katy Chu, who is tha communications director for RI Kids Count, whose two-year-old daughter, Vivian, first went to the dentist a few days before her first visit.

    With the help of mom, she now brushes daily.

    "So, when they're excited about learning about this at school, then hopefully parents and families can make that appointment with the dentist," said Chu.

    Teeth First provides educational materials, as well as toothbrushes for kids.

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