The Healthy Start System Begins with Educating Your Community

Behind every yawn is a child who deserves a Healthy Start!

Adult dental sleep medicine has become a key component for many dental practices, focusing on the use of oral appliance or PAP therapy to address snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. While evaluating adults for sleep issues, it becomes apparent that many of their symptoms have been present since childhood, revealing a critical need to begin evaluations for sleep issues at a much younger age. Research shows that nine out of ten children suffer from at least one symptom of Sleep Disordered Breathing (Stevens et al, 2016). These outward symptoms include snoring, mouth breathing, allergies, bedwetting, and many more. The Healthy Start system addresses the underlying root cause of Sleep Disordered Breathing in children by combining comprehensive dental and health issues into one system, expanding the realm of dental sleep medicine to children. Between 4 and 12 years of age, 92.6% of SDB symptoms do not self-correct, while 30% actually worsen with age (Stevens et al. 2016). Healthy Start promotes proper oral habits, develops the airway, and creates proper jaw development, often resulting in straight teeth without braces.

Figure 1: Stations Telerama and Uno, Ecuador Healthy Start Editorial reaching parents in communities and available at Pediatricians’ offices.

As dental professionals, we understand the urgency for treatment and the widespread impact that SDB has on children. The current condition, sometimes referred to as a “silent epidemic”, manifests itself in a variety of symptoms that can be easily overlooked, misdiagnosed, and, most unfortunately, left untreated. It is extremely important to reach these children before it is too late. Healthy Start provides more than a Band-Aid – it is a permanent solution if started early enough in a child’s growth and development.
Four out of ten of the most common outward symptoms of SDB are directly related to dentistry. These symptoms include mouth breathing at night, snoring, tooth grinding, and mouth breathing during the day (Stevens et al, 2016). Our healthcare system simply does not have a comprehensive and permanent solution to this crisis. Dental professionals have the knowledge and tools needed to impact the development of a child’s airway, and Healthy Start has the solution to ensure permanent changes in a growing child to help unlock their potential and provide a more healthy life.
How do we educate the public?
Healthy Start has begun a media push to educate parents, teachers, nurses, doctors, and other professionals whose work brings them into contact with children. The message is simple – first arm the public with the knowledge of the outward symptoms and the need for a dental professional to evaluate the child for the responsible underlying conditions. Then, explain that treatment for these root causes can be addressed with a non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive, conservative method.
Healthy Start has used TV, radio, newspaper, podcasts, and social media to educate the public. These media outlets have reached our providers across the country and allowed them to reach out to their communities, educating and stressing upon them the necessity of treating at an early age for a more permanent change.
Figure 2: Parent Magazine’s Healthy Start Editorial reaching parents in communities and available at Pediatricians’ offices.

Social media venues are also being used to capture the public’s attention, specifically the Healthy Start Facebook Live presentations available to the general public. These virtual meetings are conducted by the Healthy Start team and their providers, showcasing an exciting and informative presentation.  Invitations are distibuted to families, ADD/ADHA awareness groups, teaching organizations, mommy bloggers, etc. RSVP’s to these live presentations are a launching pad to begin the conversation between dental professionals and parents. Healthy Start will provide surveys to participants prior to the live presentation. These Healthy Start Sleep Questionnaires inform parents of the 27 most prevalent outward symptoms of SDB, and ask them to observe and evaluate their child using a point system to determine severity of each symptom.
The Facebook Live presentation occurs during the week and lasts approximately 45 minutes, and any question can be answered on or offline by the team members. The presentations are stored for the participants, and can be viewed at a later date or shared with friends and family members. This is the beginning of educating the public on sleep and breathing issues that we observe every day, but have not understood as a sign of a more serious underlying problem for children.
Healthy Start has created an app that becomes an educational tool for both parents and other medical professionals to understand SDB, identify the outward symptoms, and find dental professionals who treat the underlying root cause. This app also aids in monitoring, motivating, rewarding, and documenting the progress of each patient. Parents can see the progress their child is making and visually monitor their facial development. This picture book that tracks the child’s progress can be used as a conversational piece for parents and family members to share with and educate other parents on Sleep Disordered Breathing.
How do we inform parents to understand the importance of sleep and teach them to identify the outward symptoms?
The Healthy Start Sleep Questionnaire is a tool that will aid the parent and dental professional in understanding and evaluating a child’s SDB symptoms. It identifies many of the most prevalent SDB symptoms and asks parents to rate these symptoms on a scale of 1 to 5 to determine severity. This questionnaire will be completed many times throughout the Healthy Start treatment to monitor changes and improvements in symptoms from the initial intake. With these forms, parents play a critical role in their child’s treatment by evaluating their child during the 30 days that the dental professional does not see the patient.
The Healthy Start app is designed to monitor and document the child’s progress. It allows the treating dental professional to monitor each case and ensure that progress is occurring during the time between appointments. It is a valuable tool in the educational and treatment processes of Healthy Start.
How do we educate medical professionals?
It is critical that every medical professional involved with children be educated to identify the outward symptoms of Sleep Disordered Breathing, and the importance of referring these patients to their local dentists. Healthy Start is working with providers to create a “Dream Team” of medical professionals within their community who can work together as resources and team players in treating these children.
Healthy Start hosts various dinner meetings, lunch and learns, and offers a vast variety of educational resources to aid our doctors in beginning the conversation with their local medical professionals. Currently there are ear nose and throat specialists, pediatricians, allergists, psychologists, and myofunctional and speech therapists working as a team to identify patients, evaluate children, monitor and document progress, and celebrate success.
Healthy Start has reached out to these medical groups and attended lectures at their organization’s meetings, as well as made presentations at universities. It is vital to unite these various entities and reach out to our communities in order to educate and promote awareness, but more importantly to help build a provider’s “Dream Team” for the good of the children that we treat. We are on a mission to ensure that the entire medical community – whether it be dentists, pediatricians, ENT’s, school nurses, etc. – along with parents and educators are able to identify the outward symptoms of SDB in children and understand the urgency for evaluation and treatment. It is about far more than cavities and straight teeth, it is about the future overall health and well-being of every child.
To become a Healthy Start provider or to learn more about the system, please visit our website or call 844-KID-HEALTHY.

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