Dental Health for Children Provides Important Benefits
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month
NASHVILLE – Since starting a statewide dental health prevention program for children in 2001, the Tennessee Department of Health has performed more than 1.5 million screenings in Kindergarten through eighth grade schools. These important screenings are especially helpful to families who cannot afford dental care.
“In the last 11 years, our screening and exam programs have allowed us to identify oral health problems early in many children,” said Suzanne Hayes, DDS, director of TDH Oral Health Services. “Because some parents don’t have dental insurance or can’t afford routine dental care for their children, a minor problem can become a major health issue. Early intervention efforts including exams, application of sealants, referral for treatment and dental education not only make a child healthier, they can prevent more expensive health care costs later in life.”
“We know early intervention and dental health education have two important dividends: helping more people keep their natural teeth and avoiding more costly restorative dental care,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “A small investment of time in daily dental health care can make significant differences for children. Parents should also understand a healthy smile heightens self-esteem, affects social interactions, impacts learning success and even enhances the ability to get a job later in life. As many dentists will tell you, you only need to brush and floss the teeth you want to keep.”
In Tennessee, 33.7 percent of adults aged 65 and older have had all their teeth extracted, compared to 17 percent nationwide. While there are many contributing factors to that statistic, among the most significant are poor early oral health habits and the lack of dental health services and information early in life.
In addition to the School Based Dental Prevention Program, TDH has 55 dental clinics located in 54 counties. These clinics provide comprehensive care for children and emergency dental services for adults. Because some patients are not reached early enough, many teeth are not able to be saved. In 2012, more than 3,900 extractions were performed in TDH clinics. The TDH Oral Health Services program estimates every dollar spent on preventing early childhood cavities saves between $300 and $3,000. Find contact information for TDH dental clinics online at http://health.state.tn.us/oralhealth/state.html.
“With February being National Children’s Dental Health Month, now is a good time for parents to talk to their children about brushing and flossing their teeth,” Hayes said. “You can never start too early in developing those important cavity-fighting habits.”
Learn more about TDH Oral Health Services at http://health.state.tn.us/oralhealth/index.html. TDH also has dental activity pages for children available online at http://health.state.tn.us/oralhealth/activity.htm.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.