Family Health Care and FiveCAP offer new dental care program

LAKE COUNTY - The importance of good dental health begins before a child gets their first tooth.

To provide access to dental care, and teach children about good dental hygiene, Family Health Care Chief Dental Officer Dr. Marilyn Stolberg has teamed up with FiveCAP, Inc. to serve children in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Lake and Newaygo counties.

“If we have healthier kids, it’s good for all of us,” she said.

Family Health Care visits the Head Start centers and provides the federally-mandated dental exams required for all children in the program, but through the cooperative efforts of FiveCAP and the dentist, the services provided to the kids extend far beyond what is mandated. The children also receive teeth cleaning, fluoride treatments and other preventative care.

“A long time ago, the children would come to us at our clinic,” Stolberg said. “But it’s tough to put the kids in their snowsuits and boots and bus them over. So we thought, ‘There has to be a better way to do it,’ and the better way to do it is for us to come to them.”

So, twice a year – once in fall and once in spring – the kids receive a visit from the dentist.

“We’re able to keep this going for the whole time the child is in Head Start,” Stolberg said. “It seems that it has worked very, very well.”

And the numbers seem to support the success of the collaboration.

This past fall, after visiting all the Head Start centers in Lake and Newaygo counties, Stolberg was so impressed with the overall health of the children she began to examine the numbers. With about 200 kids being served through the program, she witnessed an overall decrease of 12 percent in the rate of decay since 2009.

“I think it’s pretty impressive,” she said.

The dental care is also extended to the Early Head Start children in Lake and Newaygo counties. These children, ages 0 to 3, see Stolberg and her crew four times a year at Socialization events. Because they participate in these events with their parents, the dentist is able to work with the adults one-on-one to make them aware of the need for good dental hygiene in infants and toddlers.

“As soon as that tooth pops into the mouth, it’s at risk for decay,” she said.

Some of the common factors that cause tooth decay, Stolberg added, are babies being put to bed with a bottle, parents not realizing how important it is to clean babies’ teeth and diets high in sugar.

“Pretty much all decay is preventable,” she said.

Stolberg said seeing the children so young helps alleviate fear that may develop about going to the dentist.

“I believe,” she said, “the sooner we have the opportunity to see the children – do exams on the children, do interventions if there’s a problem – the less difficult issues there will be.”

Stolberg said working cooperatively with FiveCAP on the program has been “nothing but a pleasure.” FiveCAP Executive Director Mary Trucks feels the same way.

“What is really wonderful is her willingness to teach pregnant women, infants and toddlers about dental hygiene,” Trucks said. “We’re getting them comfortable and familiar and creating a positive attitude about dental health and dental hygiene.”

For more information on the program, contact the local Head Start center, or call FiveCAP, Inc. at (231) 757-3785.