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Give Kids a Smile – National Children’s Dental Health Month

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Give Kids a Smile --Children’s Dental Health Month

Give Kids a Smile – National Children’s Dental Health Month

February 13, 2006
By: Jean Johnson for Dental1

The good people in Ohio started giving a nod to kids’ dental health humbly enough. On the third of February in 1941, organizers staged a one-day Cleveland event designed to focus on children’s dental health. That same year the folks over in Akron one-upped the Clevelanders and designated the entire week, from the third to the seventh, for the young ones.

Take Action
Tips on helping children care for their teeth:

Parents should model good brushing and flossing habits

Alert kids about the consequences of allowing sugars to languish on their teeth without at least rinsing their mouths well with water.

Help youngsters put into practice the “20-minute limit” window of time during which they should brush after eating. This holds especially true when sugary foods or drinks are consumed.

Use the Dental1 Toothbrushing Journey click here or dental awareness coloring sheets for kids to help them build good dental care habits.

Exponential Growth

Apparently those outside Ohio’s borders got behind the idea of supporting a future generation’s dental health as well. In 1949, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsored Children’s Dental Health Day on February 9, as a nationwide event. By 1955, the program had grown to a week-long affair and finally in 1981, February was dubbed National Children’s Dental Health Month by the ADA.

How It Works

Essentially, the gist of Children’s Dental Health Month is raising awareness in underserved populations of children and their families. This year the ADA estimates that 40,000 dentists will join together to provide “free cleanings, fluoride treatments and fillings.” At more than 1,700 sites across the country ranging from large-scale dental clinics to schools, dentists will try to reach underserved children with the message that their teeth need care.

The ADA has also enlisted an ambassador, Olympic gold medalist Carly Patterson, who spent her February 4 birthday in New York City at the Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery and at a local elementary school where several hundred children were screened by dental professionals, had their teeth cleaned, and if necessary received fluoride and restorative treatments such as fillings and crowns, free of charge.”

The Larger Picture

ADA president Richard Haught, D.D.S., says that while events like Give Kids a Smile within the National Children’s Dental Health Month are admirable in their intent, they are not a panacea.

“Although dentists provide billions of dollars in charitable care through their individual practices, professional dental societies, and the American Dental Association’s annual Give Kids A Smile events, charity care alone is not a long-term solution to improving access to dental care.”

Rather, under Haught’s leadership, the ADA has identified “five programs that could serve as models for other states and communities seeking to improve access to dental care for underserved populations” in what the ADA calls its ‘white paper.’

Progressive State Models

“Programs in Michigan, Tennessee, Alabama, Connecticut and Vermont provide ‘market-based solutions’ the ADA believes are successful in overcoming barriers to care, such as case management services, administrative paperwork and low Medicaid reimbursement rates, while at the same time improving access to care.”

In other words, while dental professionals are willing to donate some of their time for pro bono work, there is a limit to what they can do according to Haught. Thus, the ADA is arguing that society needs to think in terms of how it can streamline access to dental care for the underserved. Perhaps by taking a look at what the several states already listed are doing currently to achieve that end would help.

The Extent of Unmet Needs among Low-Income Children, the Disabled and Elders

The ADA suggests that the government can have a role at both the federal and state levels to ensure that all its citizens have reasonable levels of dental care. Consequently the ADA is targeting “initiatives aimed at state and federal policymakers, the public health community, the dental profession, opinion leaders and the public about the extent of unmet need for dental care among large groups of Americans.

“The poor – including low-income elderly, the disabled, and residents of rural and inner city areas where attracting a dentist is often difficult – are particularly hard hit.”

The ADA argues that not only oral health is at stake and points to growing numbers of scientific studies that show how inflammation in the gums, for example, can lead to atherosclerosis. “Left untreated, oral diseases and conditions can have painful, disfiguring and lasting negative health consequences.”

“The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is true,” Haught said. “We don’t’ need to reinvent the wheel to make a real impact on access to dental care. The ADA’s white paper is our vision for the future – a future that is entirely within our grasp.”

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