Healthy Smiles Coming for Hilltop Children

A child’s smile is a source of joy for her family and friends. And, her healthy teeth are vital to her own good health. But too many low-income children aren’t getting to dentists, and their smiles turn into mouthfuls of health problems. Three local Pediatricians are bringing an innovative answer and using Awesome Pittsburgh’s $1,000 to potentially leverage a larger solution.

Awesome Pittsburgh’s awarded our July grant to Happy Smiles for Hilltop, a program that will provide fluoride varnish treatments and preventative education to families and children in Pittsburgh’s Hilltop neighborhood.

“Awesome Pittsburgh is providing the catalyst for change for the teeth of Pittsburgh’s Hilltop children. Our awesome kids are sometimes spending the night at the Children’s Hospital for intravenous antibiotics and mouth surgery to fight the infections caused by cavities.  Some kids stop growing because it hurts too much to chew with teeth destroyed by cavities.  Thankfully, there is a help – Fluoride! Pediatricians across the country are starting to apply fluoride varnish to young children’s teeth. Simply put, kids have a hard time getting to the dentist. But nearly all kids come to the pediatrician’s office for their check ups. For pediatricians, this is an incredible opportunity to do more to improve the lives of our amazing children.  Pediatric patients at Hilltop Community Healthcare Center will receive fluoride varnish at well child visits, a previously non-funded service and get connected with area dentists. We will teach about the devastation caused by pop, candy and cavities. We want our kids to succeed in every way – keeping them in school, healthy and out of the hospital due to dental infections.”  — Dr. Amy Nevin

Dr. Amy Nevin , Dr. Peduzzi, and Dr. Susan Sieminski are Pediatricians at the Hilltop Community Healthcare Center serving Beltzhoover, Allentown and Knoxville and surrounding communities. They will be working to address an overwhelming problem – cavities!  At each Well Child visit between the ages of 15 months and 5 years, the doctors will apply fluoride varnish to teeth.  One thousand dollars is enough to buy fluoride for over 600 applications.  More importantly, they will take this opportunity to educate families and children about the importance of going to the Dentist – hoping to connect families with area dentists.

The doctors noted that the pediatric literature already confirms the benefits of fluoride varnish:

“We would like to demonstrate that with this simple intervention, patients will be more likely to schedule a dentist appointment and less likely to be admitted to the hospital for dental procedures.  These are outcomes that could save insurers and families the costs of ER visits, hospital admission, intravenous antibiotics and pediatric anesthesia.  We will present our results to health insurance companies, hoping that they will start to fund this preventative health initiative at Federally Qualified Health Centers like ours, to keep our awesome kids healthy and save money for our health care system.”

UPDATE 8/4/12: The Happy Smiles team was featured in our new monthly interview on Essential Public Radio. Click here for a listen.