In this file photo from 2016, Anne Chapman, oral health educator with the Aroostook County Action Program, talks with children who attend ACAP’s Early Care and Education Center at the Gouldville School building in Presque Isle. Credit: BDN File Photo

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As a dentist in Presque Isle, I have experienced first-hand that oral health is overall health. Early in my career in private practice, I saw families who could afford to come into our dental office. Later, working with the Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP), I learned that many Head Start students didn’t have a dentist.

I established St. Apollonia Dental Clinic to provide a dental home for children locked out of dental care. This clinic has operated for over nine years and is a comprehensive, quality, and caring dental home for thousands of children.

Unfortunately, there are still thousands of children we’re not reaching. They are invisible to us. Some will never have a dental visit until they have an urgent issue and end up in the local emergency department. A system must be put in place to locate and provide resources for these children.

LD 1501, An Act to Protect Oral Health for Children in Maine, will address this shortfall by expanding the Maine CDC’s School Oral Health Program so it would provide all schools with oral health services. This will help us find the children who are currently invisible to us and ensure that they are connected to care.

Having good oral health is critical to overall health and being able to show up at school ready to learn. I encourage our legislators to fund LD 1501 so that we can help Maine children get the preventive oral health care they need and deserve.

Dr. Norma Desjardins

Van Buren