Children’s Oral Health


In 2007, the Sadie and Harry Davis Foundation’s trustees decided to focus its resources on improving the oral health of children in Maine. Soon after, the Foundation launched its first oral health initiative, From the First Tooth, which now serves over a third of all Maine children (ages 0–4 years) who receive preventive oral health services in medical settings. This work has grown to include the creation of the Children’s Oral Health Network of Maine, an organization working to drive systemic changes to improve oral health for children in Maine.

Our goal is big and audacious: we aim to reach every Maine child and eliminate all tooth decay. This is not just about improving a child’s oral health — it’s about improving her overall well-being for a lifetime.

Barbara Crowley, M.D., Children’s Oral Health Network of Maine Board of Trustees; Executive Vice President, MaineGeneral Health

From the First Tooth

From the First Tooth provides technical assistance to primary healthcare providers to perform oral health assessments, apply fluoride varnish to children’s teeth, and provide oral health education to parents and caregivers. The program is administered by MaineHealth and has been formally endorsed by the Maine Dental Association.

Following an update to their strategic plan in 2022, From the First Tooth will now include a focus on more broadly integrating oral health into primary care for people up to age 21, including exploring establishing e-consults with dental offices, integrating hygienists into primary care practices, training health care professionals in new caries arrest tools, and connecting patients to community-based dental homes using teledentistry.

Children’s Oral Health Network of Maine

To expand its work in oral health, in 2016, the SHDF established the Children’s Oral Health Network of Maine, a network with a shared vision to ensure that all children in Maine can grow up free from preventable dental disease. Led by Becca Matusovich, the Network promotes meaningful change in policy and practice by fostering cross-sector collaboration on shared strategies in service to the vision. Partners include individuals and organization across sectors, including medicine, dentistry, education, childcare, public health, social services, and philanthropy.

The Network is focused in three main areas: expanding school-based oral health services; integrating oral health into primary care settings, which includes continued promotion and expansion of the From the First Tooth Program; and ensuring that Maine’s oral health system is sustainably financed and staffed in a way that promotes prevention and reduces disparities. At the core of this work is a deep commitment to ensuring that the solutions identified are rooted in equity and disrupt systems that cause oral health inequities to persist for marginalized populations.

The Network is guided by a steering committee of experts who deeply understand the barriers children face while seeking oral health care. The steering committee ensures the work continues to be informed by people most connected to the challenges and solutions necessary to achieve the shared vision.