The Head Start Dental Home Initiative (DHI) is comprised of a network of dentists who work to link Head Start children with dental homes. Dental homes offer children access to comprehensive, coordinated, family-centered oral health care. Head Start Health Services Advisory Committee members and program staff will benefit from this information.
A Healthy Child is Ready to Learn!
Tooth decay is the #1 chronic infectious disease among U.S. children.* Even babies can have it. And it’s totally preventable. Left undetected and untreated, the disease – called early childhood caries or ECC – makes it harder for children to speak, eat healthy foods and stay on task. Good oral health is vital to school readiness.
The Head Start Dental Home Initiative (DHI) is a state-based effort to improve the oral health of Head Start/EHS children and pregnant women. In nearly every state, plus Regions 11 and 12, DHI teams are led by a consulting dentist, the Head Start State Collaboration Office and Head Start Association, and other partners.
Why get involved?
DHI teams can:
- Help Head Start/EHS programs link children to dental providers. All children should have a dental home, be up-to-date on required exams and receive necessary treatment.
- Educate and engage staff and parents. Informed and motivated adults play a key role in leading positive and enduring change for children and families-change that can lead to the elimination of tooth decay as the #1 chronic infectious disease* among U.S. children.
- Work with individual programs to solve oral health prevention and treatment issues.
- Support positive PIR outcomes. With the help of federal DHI funds, the teams implement activities aligned with the Head Start Program Performance Standards to help programs meet oral health requirements.
What should I do?
- Head Start/EHS programs: Get help so families prevent tooth decay and find treatment when ECC occurs.
- Dentists, registered dental hygienists, midlevel or other health providers: Connect with professional peers so you can have the satisfaction of serving Head Start/EHS children.
Read the DHI Update e-newsletter for DHI news from across the country.
*Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2000
One Family's Story
Oral health didn’t seem important when Arizona father Darrin Jackson was growing up, and he was surprised that Head Start required dental exams for his children. "They had brand new baby teeth,” he said. “I brushed them, and they looked great to me!"
When exams showed that all three children had cavities, Mr. Jackson wasn’t worried – he thought their problems would be solved when the baby teeth fell out. Then a Head Start family case specialist explained that the same bacteria that cause cavities can make children very sick. The staff even helped Mr. Jackson find a dental provider, since he had no dental insurance. The children’s appointments were made, and the visits were a big success.
"The dentist treated my kids well and gave them new toothbrushes and toothpaste," Mr. Jackson said. The children even asked when they could go back to the dentist! “Now, my awareness and appreciation of good dental health has greatly increased,” he added. “Head Start empowered my family, and gave us a dental home."
The DHI helps many Head Start families like the Jacksons receive the oral health care they need. Watch Matthew's Story to see how a Head Start program and a local dentist helped another child receive dental care.
Head Start Dental Home Initiative: Program Information. HHS/ACF/OHS. 2011. English.
Last Reviewed: September 2011
Last Updated: February 23, 2012
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