Early Childhood Dental Network

Dental Network

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The Early Childhood Dental Network (ECDN) is a nine-county, multi-disciplinary collaborative project, and an outgrowth of the Early Childhood Initiative communities in west central Minnesota. It is designed to increase awareness and education to all children and their caregivers about the importance of oral health, and to increase access to dental care, specifically to the ages 0-5 population on Minnesota Health Care Programs or the uninsured. 

The ECDN believes that having access to appropriate dental care should be a basic human right. 

ECDN’s Goals 
There are two primary goals of the Early Childhood Dental Network: 

  1. To increase access to timely, appropriate and affordable dental care with a focus on children aged 0-5; 
  2. To increase oral health awareness and education to children, parents, and families to help them understand the importance of good oral health to one’s overall health and well-being. 

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, fifty percent 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 worst reimbursement in the nation!  Because of this and the complexity of other barriers, families find it difficult to find dental care.  Non-profit 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. 

How can we prevent this? 

  • Daily brushing and flossing 
  • Proper nutrition 
  • Regular check-ups 
  • Fluoride 

The ECDN is making a difference in the lives of the children in west central Minnesota 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,
contact Jane Neubauer, Early Childhood Dental Network Coordinator

jmneubauer@prtel.com; 218 731-4163,

or Nancy Jost, WCI Director of Early Childhood

njost@wcif.org, 218 739-2239.