Ignore your teeth and they will simply go away. Sad, but true. Ignore the problem of access to dental care and the problem will NOT go away. Sad, but true.

Pictured (from left): Tom Barrett, mayor, City of Milwaukee; Carol Keintz, executive director, Next Door Foundation; Willie L. Hines, Jr. alderman and Milwaukee Common Council president; Bob Duncan, executive vice president, Community Services, Children’s Hospital and Health System; Bevin K. Baker, commissioner of health, City of Milwaukee.

Everyday, Milwaukee families struggle to find dental care for their children. That’s why improving access to dental care is a top priority for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. What began many years ago as a quiet conversation about bringing dental care to the most underserved of neighborhoods now is a reality. On Monday, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, in collaboration with the Next Door Foundation, opened its pediatric primary care and dental center.

It would be an understatement if I said I was anything short of being thrilled at the potential that lies within this opportunity. By partnering with the Next Door Foundation, Children’s Hospital has the chance to address the dental and medical issues that exist within the city. We’re partnering with our colleagues to ensure that every child has the medical, dental and educational support they need.

Rarely are we given the chance to make such a significant impact on the lives of children in so many ways. Since dental health can dramatically influence overall health, we must identify children who are at risk and provide preventive care as early as age 1. Since we know a child with chronic dental pain may be a child who cannot learn, we need to provide services so they can succeed in school.

It’s about teeth, but it’s about so much more. It’s about establishing a presence within the community so families know their children are our priority. Baby teeth come and go. The impact of establishing a medical-dental home for every child will last a lifetime.

~ Lori Barbeau, DDS, is the medical director for Dental Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

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