The Healthy Kids, Healthy Smiles Initiative addresses the oral health needs of low-income and homeless children and families living in urban communities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and Washington, D.C.
Oral health services are an integral part of comprehensive health care. Dental caries, also known as tooth decay, is the most common chronic childhood disease, and can affect eating, speaking, self-esteem and learning. In extreme cases, it can cause severe infection, requiring hospitalization. An estimated 51 million hours of school are missed each year due to dental problems*.
Many children living in poverty lack access to oral health care services due to transportation, insurance and other barriers. In the United States, tooth decay impacts 25 percent of preschoolers and 50 percent of youth aged 12 to 15, and rates are even higher for children living in poverty.
Children’s Health Fund (CHF)’s mobile dental clinics travel in tandem with mobile medical clinics to community-based sites, such as schools, public housing, early education programs and homeless shelters to provide care directly to children in need. As part of CHF’s coordinated and comprehensive service delivery, children receive health education and preventive oral health care, in addition to emergency dental services.
The Initiative includes a training program for CHF medical providers to improve oral health screening procedures and increase fluoride varnish application, an innovative way to increase access to preventive oral health for children.
Healthy Kids, Healthy Smiles is a partnership between Metlife Foundation and the Children’s Health Fund.