July 6, 2021 by Jessica Gee
Oral health is a major component of our overall health and wellbeing.
North Country HealthCare is committed to improving the oral health of northern Arizona’s children, both inside and outside the exam room.
A grant from Delta Dental of Arizona allowed us to make an even bigger impact on smiles across our service region.
Many people may not realize that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children. Tooth decay is an infectious, transmissible disease caused by bacteria on the teeth, which creates acid and erodes enamel. It is a serious issue and is entirely preventable.
North Country HealthCare is committed to the health and wellbeing of northern Arizona’s children and their oral health. North Country has joined in the fight to prevent tooth decay by providing education both inside and outside of the exam room. Thanks to a grant from Delta Dental of Arizona, North Country HealthCare is able to provide pediatric dental education and outreach to families of young children throughout the region.
In 2020, North Country HealthCare launched a new program aimed at improving oral health for children and pregnant women in our service area. The program integrates dental care into existing pediatric and obstetric appointments by providing basic oral screenings and fluoride application, with additional services or referral to a dentist, as needed. Many families do not have a “dental home” (a dental office where they receive regular check-ups). Our team is happy to help bridge the gap in care and help find a dentist that is the right fit.
The program also educates medical staff and providers about the importance of oral health in overall health and helps them to incorporate oral screenings and education into their daily medical practice. Last year 1,514 women and children received free screenings, fluoride treatments, and education across our health centers. We also provided oral health training to 20 medical providers and 60 medical support staff.
Donald Pearce, health educator and program specialist at North Country HealthCare’s Show Low location, hosts local events to provide free dental screenings and fluoride varnishes. He also visits daycare centers and preschools to educate staff on positive behaviors around healthy snacks and tooth brushing while in school.
A decline in in-person preschool attendance forced North Country HealthCare’s oral health education team to be creative. Last year, Donald and a team of dental hygienists hosted drive-through events at Head Start preschools in eastern Arizona, where children could receive a free screening and fluoride varnish treatment. The team also offered free screenings to any family members who came, further promoting oral health for the whole family. All attendees were given educational packets and dental kits.
“When a child learns good oral health habits at an early age, it means a brighter future, better nutrition, a head held high, and a confident smile,” Donald said.
Timberly Perkins is the center director for Blue Ridge Head Start in Lakeside, Arizona. She first met with Donald in early 2021 to discuss oral health education for staff and families of the day care center. North Country HealthCare’s dental team offered a drive-through screening and education event for the families of Blue Ridge Head Start and the community at large.
Timberly’s granddaughter, Destiny, came to the event, where she received a check-up and a goodie bag and learned how to properly brush and floss.
“The drive-through event was great for our families, since a lot of them were cautious about taking their children to the dentist during COVID. The dental team made it very fun and easy – they were so kind and funny, smiling the whole time,” Timberly said. “Destiny felt a little shy at first, so one of the hygienists brought over a giant set of teeth and showed her how to brush. Ms. Sandy [a teacher at the center] brought her baby goat and let Destiny brush its teeth. She had a great time!”
As both a grandmother and director of a preschool, Timberly has a unique perspective on the healthcare needs of children in Navajo County. “When it comes to the oral health of our community, there’s certainly room for improvement,” she said. “Some of the families at our center don’t have dental insurance, and those kids usually need some extra care. We are grateful for North Country HealthCare’s partnership, and we hope we can have them back to talk to our parents about the importance of dental hygiene.”
North Country HealthCare offers comprehensive dental care at three of our locations: Flagstaff, Williams and Winslow. Beginning summer 2021, North Country’s Show Low location will also house a brand new, state-of-the-art dental clinic. Our dentists and registered dental hygienists provide preventive and restorative care. They are passionate about educating patients and families about how to keep your smile healthy for a lifetime.
Our dental clinics are family-centered, and we talk through each step with our patients to help reduce dental fear and anxiety. Our hope is that your experience at our dentist office is always a positive one, so that you’ll come back year after year for cleanings and check-ups to keep your teeth as healthy as possible.
We also want to remove any barriers to our patients receiving the care they need. We offer care coordination, which means that if our dentist refers you to a specialist, our team will help you find a dental office that accepts your insurance and assist in scheduling your appointment. For those who don’t have dental insurance, we also offer a sliding fee scale, so that patients only have to pay a nominal fee for their visit.
Those interested in setting an appointment can visit the Request an Appointment page on our website; current patients can do so on our patient portal. To find a dental location near you, or for more information about our dental clinics, community outreach, or questions on good dental hygiene, contact us or visit our website today!
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