Healthy Smiles

Champion Smiles in Schools

Dentist Doug Cross believes that innovation and education improve outcomes for patients at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) like EXCELth, where he has served as dental director for the last seven years.

“We need to be here,” said Dr. Cross of FQHCs. “We can treat dental issues at an affordable rate before they become a trip to the emergency room.”

Dr. Cross has recently led the charge to allow for teledentistry in the state, noting that Louisiana is “ahead of the pack” when it comes to accessing care this way.

Using teledentistry, hygienists in FQHCs that do not have dentists will be able to see patients and have a dentist weigh in virtually. Hygienists would also be able to go into schools and implement Well-Ahead’s Louisiana Seals Smiles program, where eligible children between six and 12 years of age are given dental sealants to protect their teeth against decay.

“Teledentistry would provide continuity of care for patients in rural Louisiana who otherwise may not be able to see a dentist,” explained Dr. Cross.

Lead hygienist Celeste Terry, who has worked with Dr. Cross throughout his 38-year career, partnered with Well-Ahead Louisiana’s Louisiana Seals Smiles program to provide dental sealants at two schools in the New Orleans area last year. They performed exams, cleanings and x-rays on the children, as well as applying a fluoride varnish and sealants. Approximately 50 students were able to receive the dental sealants.

Both Cross and Terry agree that outreach opportunities like Louisiana Seals Smiles not only help children but also provide an opportunity to educate school nurses and parents about the importance of good oral health.

“If a child did not have a dentist, we were able to connect the family and find them a dental home,” said Terry.

Dr. Cross noted that it is also good exposure for EXCELth, as most residents do not know about their clinics or the services offered.

While Dr. Cross believes that the impacts of COVID-19 will increase the costs of dental services and increase the number of residents seeking care from FQHCs like EXCELth, he also believes that prevention plays an important role in better oral health for Louisiana residents.

“The more we do upstream,” he noted, “the less problems we’ll have downstream.”


Public Water Systems Across Louisiana Receive Quality Awards

Well-Ahead Louisiana recently announced that 26 public water systems in the state have been awarded a Water Fluoridation Quality Award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Fluoridation is the adjustment of fluoride in drinking water to a level that is effective for preventing tooth decay. The award recognizes those communities that achieved excellence in community water fluoridation by maintaining a consistent level of fluoride in drinking water throughout 2018. A total of 1,656 public water systems in 30 states received these awards for 2018.


Belle Chasse Water District     City of Bossier Water System
Calcasieu Parish Waterworks District 1 – Plants A & B    Dalcour Water Works District
DeRidder Water System     East Jefferson Waterworks District 1
Ft. Polk  Water Systems - North and North-Housing    Ft. Polk  Water Systems - South & South Building 2902
Houma Water Treatment Plant Service Area    Lafourche Parish Water District 1 – North & South Plants
Natchitoches Water System    New Orleans Algiers Water Works
New Orleans Carrollton Water Works    Pointe a la Hache Water System
Schriever Water Treatment Plant Service Area    City of Shreveport Water System
St. Charles Water District 1 – East Bank    St. Charles Water District 2 – West Bank
Thibodaux Water Works    City of Vidalia Water System
Town of Walker Water System    West Jefferson Waterworks District 2


“Water fluoridation is one of the best investments that a community can make in maintaining the oral health of its citizens. It is equally as effective in preventing cavities in children and adults,” stated Casey Hannan, MPH, Acting Director, CDC Division of Oral Health. “Fluoridation is also highly cost effective. Studies continue to show that for every $1 a community invests in water fluoridation, $20 are saved in dental treatment costs.”

Community water fluoridation has been recognized by CDC as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th Century. CDC recommends water fluoridation as one of the most practical, cost-effective, equitable, and safe measures a community can take to prevent tooth decay and improve oral health. Thirty-three public water systems in Louisiana provide community water fluoridation.

“It’s an incredible testament to the quality work our water systems are doing that 79% of all our systems providing fluoridation were recognized with these awards. We know that fluoridating water supports the overall health of our residents, and our water systems are doing an excellent job performing this important service,” said Melissa Martin, director of Well-Ahead Louisiana.

Collaborate with us to move Louisiana's health forward! Email to learn more. Together, we can ensure that our youth has the opportunity to make informed, healthy choices.

Local WellSpot Receives Visit from the Well-Ahead Team

Well-Ahead Louisiana’s Oral Health Promotion and the WellSpot Designation program partnered together to educate those at an East Baton Rouge Early Childhood Development Center about oral health. The child care center Well-Ahead visited is a designated WellSpot and practices many benchmarks that help keep both the children and staff happy and healthy!

Accompanied by their stuffed animal brush buddy Max, the Well-Ahead Louisiana staff spent the morning with the pre-kindergarten children at the center learning about their teeth, how to brush them, and why it is important to have good oral health! Each child and childcare provider took home an oral health treat bag that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, oral health sticker, and activity sheet. Following the visit, the child care is now at a level 3 designation! What a great way to spread healthy smiles to the children in Louisiana! 


A child is susceptible to tooth decay as soon as they get their baby teeth!

Is your child's care center a designated WellSpot? Learn more about what it takes to become designated  by visiting the Well-Ahead Louisiana Child Care Center Benchmark page.

Collaborate with us to move Louisiana's health forward! Email to learn more. Together, we can ensure that our youth has the opportunity to make informed, healthy choices.

Oral Health Poster Contest Sends Louisiana Students to Indianapolis

In collaboration with the Student Alliance Council (SAC) and the Louisiana Oral Health Coalition, Well-Ahead hosted a poster contest at the end of the 2017/2018 school year. This contest aimed to increase awareness of oral health in East Baton Rouge public schools. Broadmoor High, Scotlandville Magnet High, and Woodlawn High participated in the contest. The student that created the most effective oral health poster was awarded with a paid trip to the School-Based Health Alliance Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.   

The Louisiana Oral Health Coalition had the honor of voting for and naming the winning students.  Congratulations to Woodlawn High School! It's "Be Smoke-Free" poster submission effectively demonstrated the negative impact of smoking on oral health. In June, two Woodlawn High student representatives, Melissa Castilo and Jada Paulin, attended the School-Based Health Alliance Conference in Indianapolis for a formal poster presentation.  


Did you know?

  • According the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report, 90% of smokers start using tobacco regularly by the time they are 18 years of age. Three million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2015. 
  • In Louisiana, 13.2% of middle school students and 27.6% of high school students use tobacco. (2015 YRBS)  

Moving Louisiana's Health Forward

Email to learn how you can join the Louisiana Oral Health Coalition! 

Well-Ahead Louisiana Supports Give Kids a Smile

February is a month full of celebration –  Mardi Gras, the Superbowl, Valentine’s Day, and more!  February is also Children’s Dental Health Month, uniting thousands of oral health champions to spotlight the benefits of a healthy smile. 

Give Kids a Smile is a February American Dental Association campaign that encourages dental professionals, healthcare providers and educators throughout the country to provide oral health services and education to underserved children at no charge.   

Well-Ahead Louisiana has partnered with Eat, Move, Grow to Give Kids a Smile by providing dental sealant clinics in low socioeconomic schools in 24 parishes in Louisiana.  Providing sealants and applying fluoride varnish are the two top preventive measures used to protect teeth against cavities!  

 In addition, Well-Ahead Louisiana is working with the East Baton Rouge Student Alliance Council to host an oral health poster project during February.  Students at nine schools are designing posters that will be posted throughout campuses to educate students on the importance of oral care.


  • According to Louisiana's 2009 oral health screening survey, 65.7% of third grade students had tooth decay and 41.9% had untreated cavities.

  • Three parishes in Louisiana have 0 dentists: Red River, Cameron and Tensas!


Activities that promote Children’s Dental Health Month help to move Louisiana’s health forward.  Are you interested in volunteering for a Give Kids a Smile activity?  Email or click here to learn how you can partner with us!  Together, we can increase access to preventative dental care among our youth. 

Medical Providers Can Keep Smiles Healthy Too!

Pediatricians are the first line of defense against illness and disease in children.  When medical providers become Smiles for Life certified to apply fluoride varnish, they can keep their patients’ smiles healthy too!  Fluoride varnish is a gel substance that is applied directly to the teeth.  It takes less than two minutes to apply and dries almost instantly.  From a very early age, fluoride varnish provides the most effective protection against tooth decay for children. 

Applying fluoride varnish during routine well visits is becoming a standard of care in pediatrics nationwide.  Recently, our team’s Provider Education Network hosted a webinar that provided valuable information on fluoride varnish application. This webinar was led by a panel of medical and dental providers of the Louisiana Oral Health Coalition.  Panelists provided guidance on becoming Smiles for Life certified and Medicaid reimbursement.  To further promote fluoride varnish application, our team partnered with Medicaid.   Promotional materials were distributed to medical professionals via Medicaid e-blasts and direct outreach.

In addition, Well-Ahead partnered with WIC (Women, Infants and Children) to promote fluoride varnish application to mothers.  Our team created and distributed a direct mailer to mothers enrolled in WIC services in Winn Parish.  This mailer highlighted the ease, importance and safety of fluoride varnish application.   Our team team also created a short video that reinforces the mailer's message.  This video currently being shown in WIC waiting rooms across the state. 

A healthy child is a happy child.  When medical providers incorporate preventive dental services at routine well visits, their smiles can be healthy, too!   


Tooth decay is the most common preventable childhood disease. In children ages 6 to 11 years old, it is ­­­five times more common than asthma and four times ­­­more common than obesity.          


A lifetime Smiles for Life certification is available online and takes only about an hour to complete. The certification is free and continuing education units are given at the end. Become Smiles for Life certified today by following the simple steps below!

  • Visit the Smiles for Life website and review the training module: Course No. 6: Caries Risk assessment, Fluoride Varnish& Counseling.
  • Complete and pass the exam. Receive continuing education credits.
  • Maintain a copy of the successfully completed post assessment certificate employee records.


Well-Ahead Louisiana Promotes Healthy Smiles in Louisiana Schools

Healthy Smiles

Well-AHead LouisIana PromotEs healthy smiles in louisiana schools

In partnership with the Student Alliance Council, Well-Ahead Louisiana collaborated with East Baton Rouge high schools to promote the importance of oral health to students.  The SAC is comprised of two student representatives from eight East Baton Rouge public high schools.  SAC members are responsible for educating their peers about chosen health topics during the school year.

In February, SAC members participated in an oral health promotion poster project!  This project tasked SAC members to use their influential voices to create and display oral health messaging throughout their schools for an entire week.  Check out the posters at Broadmoor High School, Woodlawn High School, and Scotlandville High School below! 

Scotlandville High School: 

Broadmoor High School:

Woodlawn High School: