AMHERST – Free dental work is available for children in Cumberland County, but less than half are taking advantage of the opportunity.
“Our focus is to get more people to utilize Medical Services Insurance coverage that is available for children,” said Jennifer Poulos, dental hygienist at Public Health Services in Amherst. “It’s out there for all Nova Scotia children up to age 10, and only 45 per cent of children are using the coverage, so we’re trying to promote that it’s out there because it gives children a great start to a whole lifetime of oral health.”
One way to get the word out is by distributing information.
This month is Oral Health Month and Public Health Services is distributing oral health kits to 900 students in Grades 1 to 3 throughout Cumberland County.
The kits have information on how to contact and use the MSI Children’s Oral Health Program, and the kit has the phone number of all the dentists in Cumberland County.
“There is information in the kit about MSI or call your dentist and ask if your child is covered under the program,” said Poulos.
Public Health Services began distributing oral health information to students in River Hebert five years ago and it’s grown every year since. This year is their biggest campaign ever, and they’re asking people to ‘Just Ask’ about the MSI program.
“The Just Ask information is going up in all the dentist offices throughout the county,” said Colleen Dowe, health educator at Public Health Services in Amherst. “It’s also going to go up in some day cares, and information cards are going with every kit that’s going out.
“We want people to just ask about the program and want to eliminate any intimidation people might feel,” added Dowe “The kit gives parents and families information to make healthy choices for their kids.”
The kit also provides toothpaste, a toothbrush, dental floss and information on what kids need to do to have healthy teeth.
“Over the past few years research has shown a link between oral health and overall health, so if someone has gum disease and a lot of decay in their mouth there’s a lot of bacteria present and that bacteria can effect you’re general health in a major way,” said Poulos. “Even with good brushing habits you still can’t get in between the teeth where some of the bacteria nests around the gum-line and that bacteria can cause problems. It can get into your blood stream and go to the rest of your body.”
Poulos said early childhood dental disease is the number one chronic illness in children in Canada and the U.S.
“So it’s important to floss,” she added. “Good oral health can lead to good overall health.”