IMPACT

Feb. 9, 2022

Maine CDC, MCD Public Health Raise Awareness on Children’s Dental Health with Poster Contest


Sherry conducted a dental screening
Sherry Laliberte conducts a dental screening on a young girl who was accompanied by her mother (photo of girl and mother are not referenced in the story).

Sherry Laliberte, a dental hygienist who works at MCD Public Health, conducts dental screenings at numerous Maine elementary schools. One day, Sherry was screening a 9-year-old girl, and what she saw shocked her.


“Her gums and tissues in her mouth didn’t look normal. Her tongue was fissured, and her gums were overgrown,” she said.


The school nurse checked her medical record and found nothing of concern. Then, her parents’ medical histories were reviewed, and it was discovered that her mother had stage 4 kidney failure that was genetic. The girl was tested, and her results indicated that she had stage 2 kidney failure.


“If I had not caught that, then she could’ve easily progressed to an advanced stage of kidney failure like her mother,” Laliberte said. “Oral health is more than just about teeth; it is about your overall health. We want to identify any problems early on to set children up for a lifetime of good oral health.”


Almost half of Maine children didn’t have dental coverage in 2019, and many children who have coverage are not using their dental benefits. Integrating oral health into children's primary care as early as possible is vital to ensuring a healthier life into adulthood.


One of the 2021 oral health poster winner
Elyse Eastman, the winner of the 5th/6th grade category last year, received a prize package including toothpaste, an electric toothbrush, floss, floss sticks, a book, tooth-friendly treats. Photo courtesy of Jessie Eastman.

Elyse's winning oral health poster from last year
Elyse Eastman's winning poster from 2021. The theme last year from the ADA was "Water, nature's drink."

Maine CDC has various oral health initiatives that aim to improve children’s oral health and overall health. One such initiative to raise awareness is an annual poster contest open to public school students from preschool through sixth grade in Maine during the month of February, which coincides with National Children's Dental Health Month.


The contest is hosted through the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s School Oral Health Program. The American Dental Association's theme this year is “Sealants Make Sense.”


Each February, Laliberte sends information to Maine public schools about the poster contest so students can create an illustrated poster on what oral health means to them. Public voting takes place in four separate categories based on grade in the first week of March, and winners from each category receive a prize that includes an electronic toothbrush, floss, reading material, toothpaste, and more.


Along with information about the poster contest, Sherry also shares oral health resources and teaching materials that anyone can use to teach children about the importance of their oral health.


“Right now, we have approximately 200 Maine public schools that are enrolled in the Maine CDC’s School Oral Health Program,” Laliberte said. “There’s discussion about opening up the program to even more schools across the state in the future.”


Submitted posters for the contest will be available for public voting during the week of February 28 through March 4. To learn more about the poster contest, or to submit a poster, contact Sherry Laliberte at slaliberte@mcd.org.


About the School Oral Health Program

The School Oral Health Program is committed to providing oral health education and prevention services to thousands of children who attend a participating Maine public elementary school, primarily pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Prevention services delivered include dental screenings, fluoride varnish applications, and, when applicable, dental sealants. The program focuses on resources at elementary schools where children are at increased risk of tooth decay and have difficulty accessing regular oral health care. Participation in the program’s services is determined by the number of children who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch Rate program.


About MCD Public Health

Medical Care Development (MCD) is a global health nonprofit and National Public Health Institute that envisions a world in which all people have access to high-quality solutions to improve and maintain their health and well-being. MCD partners with the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in staffing the public health workforce in different areas including the School Oral Health Program.



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