Ashley Moon wants to see bright smiles in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.
Moon, a recent graduate from the dental hygiene program at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, has been chosen to lead a local effort by Denver-based nonprofit organization Cavity-Free at Three.
“Dental cavities are 100 percent preventable,” Moon said. “But right now, it’s more of an epidemic than asthma. It’s one of the largest childhood diseases out there.
“With education and the right tools, we can completely prevent it.”
Cavity-Free at Three is a three-year, grant-funded, statewide effort to encourage dental care for young children, according to its website.
“The effort aims to engage dentists, physicians, nurses, dental hygienists, public health practitioners and early childhood educators in the prevention and early detection of oral disease in pregnant women, infants and toddlers,” the website states.
The local effort is being implemented by Connections 4 Kids, a nonprofit group serving Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. The group’s mission is to strengthen resources and services for children ages 8 and younger, as well as their families.
Barb West, coordinator for Connections 4 Kids, said the dental program serves that mission.
“Statistically, by third grade in our community, we have a high percentage — something like 65 percent — of children with cavities. Intervention before then will get those numbers down,” West said.
Intervention, in this case, is best achieved through local medical providers, West said. Those providers can perform brief oral checkups on young children as part of their regular visits.
“We target mostly medical providers to try to get them trained so they can bring it into their office to do a quick oral exam and possibly varnish a child’s teeth during well child checkups,” she said.
Varnishing is a fluoride application that helps prevent tooth decay, she said.
Moon will be charged with meeting with health care providers.
“What they hired me for, more than anything, is to educate,” Moon said. “I plan to educate health care workers on the importance of seeing kids under the age of 5, especially before their first tooth erupts, or before their first birthday.”
Moon said she hopes when the program draws to a close, oral checkups for young children will be a part of medical culture.
“Our goal is, by the end of three years, both the medical and dental professionals will work together to see kids under the age of 3 and pregnant women,” she said.
West said dental care for young children wasn’t always stressed as important.
“Old-school thinking is…you bring your kids in (to the dentist) when they’re 6 or something like that,” she said. “Now they’re saying bring them in by 12 months.
“If your child has teeth, it’s time to go to the dentist.”
In addition to speaking with health care providers, Moon plans to make her presence known to the community. She hopes to set up teeth screenings once per month at different locations.
West said Moon has what it takes to make the program successful.
“She just really has a heart for community, public outreach and oral health,” West said.
Learn more about Cavity-Free at Three by visiting the Child Health Fair on from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association’s Community Health Center, 745 Russell St.
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