While it’s true that babies are born with no teeth, that hasn’t deterred UH Maui College Dental Assisting Program Coordinator Joyce Yamada from putting together one of the most comprehensive and proactive healthy teeth programs on the island. Since 2009, packets for babies are compiled with proper oral care practices and delivered to each and every newborn in the county.
“In a sampling of WIC [women, infants and children] clients who received the Baby Dental Packets, 47 percent reported that the only infant dental information they received was from the Baby Dental Packets Project, and of those who had some dental knowledge previous to receiving the Baby Packets, 91 percent said they learned half of their dental knowledge from the Baby Packets,” says Jeny Bissell, R.N. and Administrator of the Family Health Services Section of the State of Hawaii Department of Health on Maui. “This project is cost effective and can be a model for the rest of the state.”
Students Tyler Yamada (Joyce’s son) and Taylor Hori (from UH Maui College and Seabury Hall, respectively) assembled the baby dental packets. They include a parent’s toothbrush, which is a child-sized brush with a handle fit for a parent’s hand; the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research brochure titled “A Healthy Mouth For Your Baby;” and the UHMC Dental Assisting Program brochure “Keep Your Baby Smiling…” Dental kits are also available in Spanish.
“I created, organized and secured funding for my Baby Dental Packet Project that began in 2009,” says Yamada. “As a dental hygienist, I found that there was a need for oral care information for babies. The project began with a grant from Young Brothers, as well as financial support from the Maui County Dental Hygienists’ Association and Pedodontic Associates. WIC Program/Family Health Services Section/Maui District Health Office of the State of Hawaii Department of Health, Maui Memorial Medical Center’s CEO Wesley Lo, CFO Pat Saka, MMMC attorney Richelle Kawasaki Lu and Maternity Head Nurse Shirley Chun Ming supported the project.”
The County of Maui took notice of the hard work of Yamada and the dental hygienists at UH Maui. In October ,Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa presented a special proclamation, “UH Maui Dental Assisting Program Dental Kits for All of Maui’s Babies Day,” to community representatives at his office in Wailuku. It’s a mouthful to acknowledge the effort that gives healthcare providers dental packets for pediatrics, community health offices and the families of every baby born at the Maui Memorial Medical Center.
“Healthy teeth are important to the overall health of our keiki and taking simple steps now can mean helping our children have healthier gums and teeth throughout their lifetime,” says Arakawa. “The County of Maui is committed in our support of the University of Hawaii Maui College’s fine work to educate the community about the importance of infant oral hygiene.”
In 2011, local pediatrician Dr. Felicitas Livaudais of Kaiser Maui Lani approached Yamada about the possibility of expanding the project and making baby packets available to interested pediatric and community clinics on Maui. Kaiser Community Benefit funded this project, with 2,000 baby packets distributed in 2012.
Then the Hawaii State Department of Health WIC program officials assessed the efficacy of this program. Presently, Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit has provided the funding for 2,000 baby packets at the Maui Memorial Medical Center and 2,000 for local pediatric offices and clinics on Maui for 2013.
“Since the program was recently implemented we will have to wait and see if the outcome is a measurable increase in dental health of children,” says Jason Hall, Vice President and Chief Administrative office for Kaiser Permanente. “Prevention and reinforcement leads to good behavior which can lead to good oral health outcomes for children. Oral health is an important part of promoting healthy communities. On the other hand if the doctors advice (including education) is not followed through, it can lead to adverse outcomes.”
The search for funding continues and Yamada says she has requested and received funding for packet materials from the Maui County Dental Society and the Frank M. and Gertrude R. Doyle Foundation. The Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation (Lani Correa) also funds the printing of a Baby Dental informational brochure, “Keep Your Baby Smiling,” that is culturally sensitive to Hawaii’s diverse population.
With the permission from Hawaii State Dental Director Mark Greer, they used printed material from the out-of-print baby dental brochure. They also received plastic bags to hold the dental materials from Pedodontic Associates and in the past two years from Dr. Shaun Wright, DDS, who operates his office on Market Street in Wailuku.
“By reaching every newborn on Maui, I hoped to improve the oral care of Maui’s children and reduce their tooth decay rates,” says Yamada. “I anticipated positive long-term effects of sharing dental knowledge to an entire generation of children on Maui.”
For more information about the UH Maui College Dental Assisting program or baby dental packet project, contact Yamada at 808-984-3663 or by email at [email protected]