Early Childhood Dental Network

Dental Network

Early Childhood Dental Network

The Early Childhood Dental Network (ECDN) is a collaboration to educate children and their caregivers about the importance of oral health and to increase access to dental care for children ages 0-5 on Minnesota Health Care Programs or uninsured. 

What’s the issue? 

It’s an access to services advocacy issue... 

Childhood tooth decay is the most chronic, yet preventable, infectious disease in children. Yet, 50% of tooth decay in low-income children goes untreated. 

For children and their families who have Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare for their health coverage, the State of Minnesota reimburses the dental provider 32% of the cost. This is the lowest reimbursement in the nation. Because of this and the complexity of other barriers, families find it difficult to find dental care. Nonprofit dental clinics provide care for this vulnerable community, yet they are often met with long waiting lists.   

The ECDN, along with partners like the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition, continues to advocate for higher reimbursement and eliminating the other barriers that stand in the way for families seeking dental care. 

It’s an education issue...

There is a myth that continues to be passed from generation to generation, that outweighs parents’ best judgment: They’re just "baby teeth.” Baby teeth lay a foundation for permanent teeth. If not taken care of, problems in baby teeth can lead to a lifetime of health problems. Acute pain and tooth loss can lead to dysfunctional speech patterns, space loss, crowding, and diminished facial appearance. Living with untreated pain due to tooth decay can be associated with poor school performance and disruptive behavior, affecting both the child’s ability to learn and others. 

The ECDN is making a difference by: 

  • Using the science of child development and oral health, ECDN partners have created and shared a variety of comprehensive educational pieces and worked through complex access issues, all with the focus to improve children’s oral health. 
  • Supporting mobile outreach clinics to help increase the number of the region's children who receive dental care and who are served by Minnesota Health Care Programs. 
  • Working with Apple Tree Dental and Caring Hands Dentistry to expand community-based dentistry and Children's Dental Services to create and expand school-based oral healthcare. 
  • Work with high schools and colleges to increase the number of students entering the dental field.  
  • Aiding medical clinics with implementing oral health screening during well-child exams. 
  • Provide an up-to-date, oral health advocacy platform. 

For more information
Jane Neubauer, Early Childhood Dental Network Coordinator

Nancy Jost, WCI Director of Early Childhood

Check out our oral health resources page
Activity pages for kids, and great information for you!