Programs & Initiatives in Communities – Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby.

Programs & Initiatives in Communities
Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby.

Partnering to promote dental health in Minnesota's infants and toddlers

Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. is a community-centered initiative based on the notion that prevention of early dental disease starts during pregnancy and is most effective in the first three years of life. The initiative provides resources and education to pregnant women, expecting/new parents and caregivers of children up to the age of three. The campaign is geared toward communities of color and recent immigrants, and it is part of the larger statewide Early Dental Disease Prevention Initiative (EDDPI), which legislators called for in 2015.

Goals of Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby.

  1. Educate parents/caregivers and public health professionals to prevent early dental disease.
  2. Parents/caregivers bring children to a primary care provider or dentist by first tooth or first birthday (whichever comes first).
  3. Lower the burden that dental disease has on health care infrastructure.
  4. Decrease overall cases and lower impact of early tooth decay through oral health promotion and grassroots efforts.

Early Childhood caries is common, but it’s nearly 100 percent preventable

Early childhood caries, or tooth decay, is the most common chronic disease among children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information on Dental Caries (Tooth Decay). Early childhood caries is an infectious disease that can begin as early as teeth appear (usually around six months) and spreads quickly. This type of decay can cause severe pain to the child and can affect talking, speech, eating, sleeping, learning and playing.

Common and costly: early childhood caries by the numbers

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) report The State of Little Teeth (PDF), more than one-third of children have early childhood caries by the time they enter kindergarten.
AAPD also cites Early Childhood Caries (ECC) (PDF) as being:

  • Five times more common than asthma
  • Four times more common than early childhood obesity
  • 20 times more common than diabetes

Many children with this type of decay require operations to treat the disease that may range anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 per child per year. And even though the disease is common and expensive to treat, the good news is that it’s preventable.

How the program works

Healthy Teeth, Healthy Baby image

Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. focuses on five key messages

  1. Understand the value of prenatal oral health
  2. Check and clean your baby’s teeth to prevent cavities
  3. Protect your baby’s teeth with fluoride
  4. Feed your baby healthy food
  5. Take your baby to a doctor or a dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than his/her first birthday

Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. educates pregnant women, along with parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers, on early dental disease prevention to avoid tooth decay. The initiative is geared toward communities of color and recent immigrants.  The campaign uses motivational interviewing techniques and easy-to-understand educational materials to provide information to non-English speaking parents and caregivers in the most appropriate manner.

Materials include: multilingual posters, easy-to-understand tooth models, videos and interactive tools. Oral health kits are also distributed as incentives and contain the following items: age-appropriate toothbrush, floss, timer, lift-the-lip mirror cling and educational insert.

Download Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. Materials

For more information about or to access these materials, including graphic files and oral health kits, view our Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. communications toolkit and resources.

How you can get involved

We need the involvement of parents, caregivers and community partners, along with both dental and medical providers, in order for Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. to be successful. Community organizations can contact us directly to organize an educational session for communities. As part of the session we’ll use easy-to-understand educational materials, hands-on models and oral hygiene kits to educate new and expecting parents and caregivers.

Collaborating with medical and dental providers to increase preventive behaviors

Medical-dental collaboration is a cornerstone of the Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. To improve the oral health of very young children, the campaign engages in partnerships with many maternal and child health stakeholders. Within the Minnesota Department of Health, the initiative collaborates with the Oral Health Program and Maternal and Child Health programs including WIC, Family Home Visiting, and Child & Teen Checkups (C&TC). These connections as well as those with the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and many other external partnerships encourage pediatricians and family practice doctors and their staff to get trained to provide risk assessments, counseling, and fluoride varnish to prevent early childhood caries. This aligns with the AAP recommendation that health care providers perform oral health risk assessments on all infants by the time they reach six months of age.

Combining forces with the primary care and public health community is essential, especially for low-income children who most often experience barriers in accessing dental care. A well-baby visit can help fill the gap when there is not access to a dental home. The ultimate goal is connect each infant and young child to a dental home providing continuous access to appropriate preventive routine and restorative dental care, institutionalizing the core values of AAPD.

Dental professionals and non-dental health professionals, like nurses, community health workers and physicians, all play a role in Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. In addition to providing ongoing care to children under the age of three, they can continue to educate children, parents and caregivers, and help prevent early dental disease.

Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. Grantees

The Oral Health Program awarded 12 mini-grants to partners throughout Minnesota. These partners implemented innovative and compelling outreach, research or educational projects supporting the Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. initiative, including the distribution of more than 10,000 oral hygiene kits across the state.

Additional Resources

The following websites provide helpful information regarding dental health in infants and toddlers.

Minnesota Dental Association
Early Dental Prevention Initiative - MN Statute 144.061
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
American Academy of Pediatrics (Minnesota Chapter)
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
NICDR Videos
Minnesota Department of Health Women, Infants & Children (WIC) Program
Fluoride Varnish Application (FVA): Non-Dental Provider
Preventive Services for Children and Pregnant Women: Dental Providers
Fluoride Varnish in the Child and Teen Checkups (C&TC) Setting
C&TC Schedule of Age-Related Screening Standards
C&TC Dental Periodicity Schedule: Dental Providers

For more information about Healthy Teeth. Healthy Baby. contact Prasida Khanal at 651-201-3538 or email