Muskegon County Health Department officials say more children are reaching school age with little knowledge of basic dental hygiene.
That lack of knowledge can lead to serious dental problems, unnecessary pain and absence from school, they said.
So officials have decided to attack the problem at its roots. The county health department has applied for a $3,600 grant from the Community Foundation for Muskegon County to pay for a “Dental Care Tote Project.”
The project would provide tote bags filled with dental hygiene tools and information for the parents of about 500 infants, and for about 440 first-graders in 22 classrooms in the Muskegon Public Schools system.
Muskegon County commissioners voted 9-1 Tuesday to allow the health department to apply for the grant. Commissioner Bill Gill cast the lone vote against the application.
Officials expect a reply to the grant application within weeks and would like to have the first-grade tote bags distributed by the end of the current school year, according to Jackie Balcom, dental health coordinator for the health department.
Infant tote bags would include a baby toothbrush and brochures regarding dental resources in the community, the characteristics of infant teeth and causes of infant Tooth decay. The tote bags would be distributed through local agencies that work with new parents, like Catholic Social Services and Muskegon Family Care.
First-grade tote bags would include a toothbrush, a three-minute timer for brushing, and brochures on the causes of Tooth decay. Health department staff members would also make dental hygiene presentations in every first-grade class before sending the tote bags home with students.
This isn’t the first time the health department has distributed the tote bags, which have been popular with hospitals and social service organizations throughout the county.
The first-grade presentations also are a continuation of a health department initiative started within the last two years at Whitehall’s Shoreline Elementary and Muskegon Heights schools.
Eventually, with continued grants, health officials would like to extend the program to first-grade classrooms throughout the county. They also would like to train first-grade teachers to give presentations on dental hygiene so they can help spread the word, Balcom said.
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Tatiana Kuznetsova, D.M.D.