BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Maryland gets top marks when it comes to dental health for youngsters, but many small children still aren’t getting the care they need from dentists.

As Gigi Barnett reports, dentists are launching a new statewide campaign targeting toddlers.

Next to a doctor’s visit, this may be one of the most important medical exams for small children.

Maryland is a national leader in early dental visit for its youngest patients. But the state says many parents aren’t on board yet when it comes teaching toddlers how to take care of their teeth.

“The mouth is the gateway to the body so I guess we’re doing a lot of backtracking to try to educate parents,” Dr. Winifred Booker, a dentist, said.

The state’s quest to educate parents began five years ago, shortly after the death of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver. He died after an untreated dental problems caused severe brain infections.

His parents couldn’t find dental care fast enough. Now the state’s newest campaign is called “Healthy Teeth, Healthy Kids.”

“A lot of parents have absolutely no idea about the relationship between the teeth and the rest of the body,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings. “So what this campaign will do is give them in simple language the importance of brushing your teeth.”

“I hadn’t been taking him to the dentist like I’m supposed to,” parent Vanessa Pearl said.

She does now.

After a recent exam, dentists found four cavities in her 4-year-old son’s mouth. She quickly stepped into action, but says oftentimes, dental visits are easy to miss.

“You never miss a doctor’s appointment. You follow-up, you go to the emergency room when there’s something wrong. But with the teeth, it’s kind of like– especially with the children– they’ll get another chance,” Pearl said.

Dentists say that is just not the case. The sooner the better. This is just one of the first statewide campaigns targeting dental care for young patients.

The “Healthy Teeth, Healthy Kids” campaign targets children from birth to 6 years old.