There’s nothing more joyous than welcoming a new baby into the world. It makes everyone smile.
Delta Dental of South Dakota (DDSD) wants to make sure those new smiles stay healthy through New Smile Kits, a statewide project that provides a free infant toothbrush, adult toothbrush and infant oral health information to moms of newborns before they leave the hospital.
The program began as a pilot project in 2011 with Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls. Jean Gross, RDH for DDSD, led the effort and helped expand the project every year since. “I can’t think of a better time to reach moms about caring for their child’s oral health,” she said. “It’s when they’re learning everything about their new baby.”
Sanford USD Medical Center hospital in Sioux Falls joined the program in 2012, and hospitals in Aberdeen, Mitchell and Yankton joined in following years.
Still, there are more than 12,000 children born in South Dakota every year. “We’d love to reach every one of those new babies and their families,” said Connie Halverson, DDSD’s Vice President of Community Benefit.
Starting in 2017, DDSD looked to complete the project’s reach to every hospital in the state with a maternity ward. “We’ve had great response from hospitals in just about every corner of the state,” Halverson said.
In the last year, hospitals in Brookings, Chamberlain, Huron, Mobridge, Pierre, Rapid City, Sisseton, Spearfish, Vermillion, Watertown and Winner have all joined the project, which now includes about 85% of the maternity wards in South Dakota.
The New Smile Kits are part of a broader Delta Dental effort to encourage early childhood oral health care. The Dentist By 1 program looks to get parents to take their children to the dentist within 6 months of their first tooth or no later than age 1.
In addition to parent education on the benefits of early childhood oral health, DDSD is surveying dentists across the state to identify those who welcome the youngest patients, and is also providing information to pediatricians and childcare organizations about the importance of early oral health care.
It’s all part of a healthy start and a healthy smile for life.