A poster contest this month aims to raise awareness on children’s dental health. Shown is Elyse Eastman’s winning poster from 2021, when the theme from the American Dental Association was “Water, nature’s drink.” Photo courtesy of MCD Public Health

The Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has various oral health initiatives that aim to improve children’s oral health and overall health. One such initiative to raise awareness is an annual poster contest open to public school students from preschool through sixth grade in Maine during February, which coincides with National Children’s Dental Health Month.

The contest is hosted through the CDC’s School Oral Health Program. The American Dental Association’s theme this year is “Sealants Make Sense.”

Sherry Laliberte, a dental hygienist who works at MCD Public Health, conducts dental screenings at numerous Maine elementary schools. One day, she was screening a 9-year-old girl, and what she saw shocked her.

“Her gums and tissues in her mouth didn’t look normal. Her tongue was fissured, and her gums were overgrown,” Laliberte said, according to a news release from the organization.

The school nurse checked her medical record and found nothing of concern. Then, her parents’ medical histories were reviewed, and it was discovered that her mother had stage 4 kidney failure that was genetic. The girl was tested, and her results indicated that she had stage 2 kidney failure.

“If I had not caught that, then she could’ve easily progressed to an advanced stage of kidney failure like her mother,” Laliberte said. “Oral health is more than just about teeth; it is about your overall health. We want to identify any problems early on to set children up for a lifetime of good oral health.”


Almost half of Maine children didn’t have dental coverage in 2019, and many children who have coverage are not using their dental benefits. Integrating oral health into children’s primary care as early as possible is vital to ensuring a healthier life into adulthood.

Each February, Laliberte sends information to Maine public schools about the poster contest so students can create an illustrated poster on what oral health means to them. Public voting takes place in four separate categories based on grade in the first week of March, and winners from each category receive a prize that includes an electronic toothbrush, floss, reading material and toothpaste.

Along with information about the poster contest, Laliberte also shares oral health resources and teaching materials that can be used to teach children about the importance of their oral health.

“Right now, we have approximately 200 Maine public schools that are enrolled in the Maine CDC’s School Oral Health Program,” Laliberte said. “There’s discussion about opening up the program to even more schools across the state in the future.”

Submitted posters for the contest will be available for public voting during the week of Feb. 28 through March 4. To learn more about the poster contest or submit a poster, email Laliberte at [email protected].

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