The collaborative effort between the college and community partners gives dental informational packets to healthcare providers for the families of every baby born at the Maui Memorial Medical Center, as well as interested pediatrics and community health offices.
The project began in 2009 and seeks to provide access to oral health information to every socio-economic group, thereby improving oral care and reducing Hawaiʻi’s tooth decay rates. It’s estimated that more than 4,000 packets are disseminated each year.
“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,” said Arakawa. “The County of Maui is committed in our support of the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College’s fine work to educate the community about the importance of infant oral hygiene.”
The packets for babies contain dental products and information on proper oral care practices, including a brochure designed and produced by UH Maui College called “Keep Your Baby Smiling,” along with a brochure from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a Butler parent’s toothbrush (a child-size brush with a handle fit for a parent’s hand), and Spiffies tooth wipes.
The packets are assembled by student volunteers from UH Maui College and local intermediate and high schools.
“By developing and disseminating dental information for keiki as soon as they’re born, we can positively affect the long-term dental health of an entire generation of children on Maui,” said UH Maui College Dental Assisting Program Coordinator Joyce Yamada.
Project partners include Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Hawaiʻi State Department of Health, Maui County Dental Hygienists’ Association, Maui County Dental Society, Frank M. and Gertrude R. Doyle Foundation and Shaun Wright, DDS.
According to Jeny Bissell, registered nurse and administrator of the Family Health Services Section of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health on Maui, 47 percent of a sampling of WIC clients who received the baby dental packets reported it was the only infant dental information they received. 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.
“This project is cost effective and can be a model for the rest of the state,” said Bissell.