Dr. Jennifer Noble, a pediatric resident at the University of Toledo, assists pediatric patients with dental health awareness through her project, Toledo Smiles.
What inspired you to create Toledo Smiles?
I attended a lecture that emphasized that primary care physicians have the best opportunity to make the first and possibly biggest impact on a child's early oral health. That talk inspired me to learn more about oral health, how to integrate it into the pediatric clinical encounter and to eventually apply for a grant to start this project.
What are some ways poor dental health is reflected in the overall health of a child?
Dental problems have been reported as the number one preventable chronic disease of childhood. Dental disease can cause children to endure chronic pain, infection or missed school. A child's self image may be affected by missing, discolored or damaged teeth. Children with poor dental hygiene have a greater chance to grow up to become adults with poor dental hygiene and repeat this pattern with their own children. Finally, the cost of repairing poorly controlled dental decay is high and can affect a family financially.
What pediatricians and dentists have you partnered with?
There are four pediatric offices participating in this study: Toledo-Lucas County Health Department Pediatric Clinic, Western-Lucas County Health Department, Mercy St. Vincent Family Care Center and University Pediatrics & Resident Continuity Clinic at the University of Toledo. There are three dental offices participating in the study: Toledo-Lucas County Health Department Dental Clinic, Dental Center of Northwest Ohio and the University of Toledo Dental Clinic.
How does a child become a patient through Toledo Smiles?
Parents who take their children, ages six months through three and a half years, to one of these clinics for a child visit have the opportunity to participate in the study by completing a questionnaire that includes information about the child's tooth history. Participating dental providers contact the family to schedule a dental visit. Dental staff will assist families with coordinating dental insurance for the child at the time the visit is scheduled. Parents bring their child to the dental appointment and the child receives an oral exam, fluoride varnish, information about nutrition, tips to keep teeth healthy and a $10 Kroger gift card as an incentive for coming.
What do you think has been the biggest obstacle in getting pediatric patients to the dentist’s office?
One challenge in getting kids to see a dentist early is convincing their parents that big problems can start even when a child only has a couple of teeth in their mouth. A cavity does not start when the child has pain. Usually a problem has been going on for a while with the initial development of plaque that eventually grows into a cavity. Helping focus the parent's perception of why oral health is important and how tooth decay can become a problem has been one of our challenges.
Dr. Noble and Toledo Smiles can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and through the following websites: