MICHIGAN CITY — “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” may be an old adage, but its truth is still applicable today.

In fact, it’s the basis for Southshore Skipping Stones, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) dental education foundation that began in April 2016 and serves Northwest Indiana.

The concept for Southshore Skipping Stones actually began 10 years ago by Founder Dr. Tamara Gierke Button DDS, who currently works as a pediatric dentist along with Lisa Leniski DDS, at Michigan City Pediatric Dentistry, 211 E. 4th Street.

“Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood in our country today. Far too many kids go to bed with toothaches or have a hard time concentrating in school because their teeth hurt so badly,” Gierke Button explained. “Many parents and caregivers are not aware that some of the most important things they can do to prevent tooth decay happen before their baby even has teeth, and some even before their baby is born. Southshore Skipping Stones was created to help spread the word about childhood tooth decay prevention so that every parent has the tools and knowledge necessary to keep their family cavity free.”

Gierke Button said babies aren’t born with the bacteria that causes cavities; rather, this is oftentimes passed from mother to baby. This bacteria causes tooth decay, which is an infectious disease.

“The healthier mom’s mouth is, the less likely she will have high enough levels of the cavity causing bacteria that could infect her baby early, leading to the most severe forms of childhood tooth decay that can begin as soon as a baby’s first tooth erupts,” continued Gierke Button. “This is why it is so important for every pregnant woman to see her dentist for a cleaning and checkup so her mouth can be at its best before her baby is born.”

She emphasized the importance of good oral hygiene practices for babies, beginning at day one with wiping out a newborn’s mouth at least once a day. This not only prevents the bacteria from having a chance to grow, but it also allows the baby to become familiar with mouth cleansing, which leads to a smoother transition to teeth brushing later. When the first tooth arrives, parents should diligently add daily brushing to the teeth and gums.

“Following the dietary guidelines given by pediatricians promotes overall health, which includes healthy developing teeth,” Gierke Button continued. “When infants are introduced to foods or beverages before they are recommended or they are given more than is recommended, it can lead to health issues such as childhood obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

Gierke Button described the sole purpose of Southshore Skipping Stones as: “All pregnant women, parents and caregivers achieve a healthful smile and the ability to pass that on to their children through prenatal oral health education classes and counseling, and access to quality dental care.”

“When parents and caregivers have access to the knowledge and care necessary, it makes it possible for families to achieve healthful smiles. And when smiles are full of health, that’s when children are the happiest,” she emphasized.

Southshore Skipping Stones offers free prenatal oral health classes, called “Smile Baby!” and “Born to be Cavity Free” in addition to infant oral health classes called “Preteeth Prep School.” A free “Newborn Baby Care Basics: Building Blocks of Knowledge, Know-how and Support” will be held Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Healthlinc Conference Room, 710 Franklin Street (See sidebar for more information). Through a grant from the Unity Foundation of La Porte County, Southshore Skipping Stones and Community Advocates of Northern Indiana are able to offer the Newborn Baby Care Basics class.

Gierke Button acknowledged the misconceptions she faces about oral health care for expectant moms, babies and children.

“It is frustrating to hear ‘they are just baby teeth and will fall out anyway.’ While it is true that baby teeth do eventually fall out, baby teeth are the teeth that your child relies upon to eat their first foods, sound out their first words and continue to develop their speech, as well as help to support the bone structure in their jaws until they receive their adult teeth,” she shared.” “Baby teeth are an extremely important indicator of your child’s overall health. If a child has cavities in their baby teeth, that should be a warning sign to a parent — not something to just dismiss.”

Gierke Button explained how many pregnant women forego dentist visits because they mistakenly think it is unnecessary or unsafe.

“Since a woman’s oral health can have a direct impact on the health of her pregnancy as well as the oral health of her baby, it is not only safe to go to your dentist while pregnant, it is encouraged,” she said.

Southshore Skipping Stones’ website, www.southshoreskippingstones.org, reminds visitors that the foundation is not a dentist office and its mission is not to find new patients. Instead, it maintains that it wants parents to “have every advantage in the fight against childhood tooth decay. That is the only reason we exist and why we are dedicated to healthful smiles for pregnant women, babies and families.”

In addition to Gierke Button and Leniski, there are five Southshore Skipping Stone board members. One member offered her comments on the foundation:

“This is a first for our community,” said Albertine Allen, Board Member of Southshore Skipping Stones and Consulting Director of CANI (Community Advocates of Northern Indian — formally Minority Health Coalition of La Porte County). “CANI is honored and excited to partner with Southshore Skipping Stones on services for expectant moms. The information they are receiving is invaluable, not just to the disproportionately affected moms-to-be, but to the entire La Porte County. Southshore Skipping Stones is addressing health resources, outreach and preventive oral care along with infant toddler oral care.”

For more information about Southshore Skipping Stones, including a full list of upcoming classes, go to www.southshoreskippingstones.org. The foundation may also be reached at 219-798-9299 or info@southshoreskippingstones.org.


In recognition of National Women’s Health Month, Southshore Skipping Stones, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) dental education foundation serving Northwest Indiana, is offering a free class:

What: Newborn Baby Care Basics: Building Blocks of Knowledge, Know-how and Support. An interactive group class, it aims to provide expectant parents and caregivers with critical information for those first few weeks at home, including how to lovingly nurture and care for their new baby as well as care for themselves.

Topics Covered: Bonding with baby, baby’s oral hygiene, safe sleeping, well-baby visits, breastfeeding, healthy responses to crying and more.

When: Friday, May 18; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Who: Expectant moms and caregivers. There is no charge for this event.

Where: Healthlinc Conference Room, 710 Franklin Street; Michigan City

Bonus: The first 30 expectant parents to register will receive a free baby bathtub full of baby goodies to take home.

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