February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and it is meant to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. Why is this type of celebration — and year-round attention to children’s dental health — important?
Even though it’s almost entirely preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. The good news is there are safe and effective preventive measures that can protect teeth. Good oral hygiene practices such as thorough brushing with fluoride toothpaste can help keep children from getting cavities. Also, dental sealants and community water fluoridation are two other strategies that can help prevent tooth decay.
Here are a few facts about dental health that are important for all of us.
Fluoridation of water. Experts consider it one of the 10 top public health achievements in the last century. Yet 100 million Americans do not have community water fluoridation (CWF), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “CWF has been found to reduce tooth decay by over 25 percent, with more than 3,000 scientific studies and research findings proving that CWF is safe,” according to Oral Health America.
Encourage access to dental teams. The Commission on Dental Accreditation in recent years “voted to implement education standards for dental therapy training,” according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. These assistants, much like physician assistants, have a broader range of power and skills to assist patients that previously only a dentist could provide. They would be helpful in expanding dental practices and providing “preventive and routine restorative care.”
- Seal in that smile. Urge your dentist and school-based program to commit to using dental sealants. These are plastic coatings on the teeth’s chewing surface. The results have been impressive at fighting tooth decay. They can reduce decay by upward of 80 percent, and this protection can last up to five years. Unfortunately, low-income and at-risk people are most likely to suffer, according to the Pew Trust. In its report on how well this sealant program is implemented throughout the United States, only two states — New Jersey and Wyoming — and the District of Columbia got an F grade.
Often unmentioned on the issue of oral health are the psychological scars attached to it. People, especially our youth, are more prone to ridicule or contempt if they have “bad” teeth, a situation they can’t hide. And like many issues related to health, the longer you postpone dealing with them, especially when they are preventable, the more likely citizens will face permanent damage and more expensive treatment.
Unsurprisingly, those most at risk – African American and Hispanic children — are more likely to face the disparity of access and affordability for dental health.
If ever the cliché “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies, it certainly does when dealing with oral health.
And finally, if you have healthy teeth, you will feel better about yourself, so smile. It’ll give you and the people around you a boost.
That’s my take, what’s yours?
If you are in a position to promote healthy oral health, click here.
If you want to learn more about improving your oral health, click here.