Healthy Smiles, Happy Children: A Dentist for Every Child

A collaborative initiative of:

  • The Region III Office of Head Start – Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
  • The Pennsylvania Head Start State Collaboration Office (PA HSSCO)
  • The Pennsylvania Head Start Association (PHSA)
  • Community Partners and Stakeholders

Leadership and Advocacy for Oral Health in Pennsylvania’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs is promoted by the Head Start Healthy Smiles Task Force.

Purpose of the Healthy Smiles Task Force

The Healthy Smiles Task Force was convened in 2011 by the PA Head Start Association (PHSA) to launch the oral health initiative, “Healthy Smiles, Happy Children: A Dentist for Every Child.” The Task Force addresses the unique needs of our most vulnerable children and families by developing and implementing strategies and recommendations for improving their oral health.

Goals & Objectives:

  1. Improve Access to Care by building a network of dental providers to care for Head Start children and families through continuously accessible Dental Homes, and in partnership with all HealthChoices Managed Care Organizations (MCOs)
  2. Promote Education of Parents, Families, Staff, and Community by applying best practices in adult learning and oral health literacy for audiences through educational opportunities (such as Cavity Free Kids training)
  3. Foster Dental and Medical Provider Collaboration to serve Head Start children, starting in the first year of life; to understand the unique needs of the Head Start Community; and to promote effective referral networks between dental and medical providers in local communities through professional education (such as PA Age One Connect the Dots training)
  4. Mobilize Institutions, Organizations, and Individuals to reach out to local Head Start programs in collaboration with key stakeholders, including dental schools, dental associations, state agencies, public/private organizations, community partners, and child advocates

Task Force Activities:

  • Engaging in ongoing networking and professional support for dental providers to serve Head Start children
  • Implementing oral health literacy education to effectively communicate the importance of oral health and chronic disease prevention approaches for parents, families, staff, and community
  • Supporting the advancement of state policy to improve oral health status and well-being for vulnerable families and children, through improved oral health service access, utilization, and education
  • Developing an ongoing planning process to sustain quality improvements for the Head Start community

Healthy Smiles Task Force Meetings:

  1. At least 2 face-to-face meetings every year (usually early spring in the Harrisburg/South-central region, Pittsburgh/Western region in late spring, and the Allentown/Northeastern Region in late fall)
  2. Self-organized subcommittee calls as needed to meet goals and objectives

Education Committee


  • Becky Aardweg, Health Coordinator, Columbia-Sullivan Head Start Child Development Program
  • Tonya Heaton, PHDHP, RDH, Gateway Health Plan

The Education Committee improves the oral health literacy of Head Start parents, families, staff, and local communities by providing education for all audiences through active learning opportunities.

Access to Care Committee


  • Marcie Banze, RN, Health Manager, Seton Hill Child Services Head Start Program
  • Susan M. Miller, RN, Health, Nutrition, Safety, and Disabilities Coordinator, Families First Early Head Start

The Access to Care Committee improves access to comprehensive oral health care services by engaging dental providers to serve Head Start children and families through continuously accessible Dental Homes.