By Lynn Borup, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Network
I just returned from a wonderful weekend of rafting with a good friend from college. In catching up on our kids’ antics, I learned that her 8-year-old son had just had six cavities filled! Though the number of cavities was concerning, I was more shocked to learn that she had been very hesitant to get his teeth filled as “they were just baby teeth”.
It is very interesting to me that so many people, even the most educated amongst us, have little knowledge or understanding about the importance of good oral health care. The Surgeon General has identified that oral health is directly linked to total health and well-being throughout one’s life. Yet people often overlook the correlation between good oral health and good physical health.
Yes, baby teeth will eventually fall out; but in the interim, decay can build up causing residual damage possibly affecting the permanent teeth growing in. The AAPD finds that “left untreated, dental caries can result in a broad range of functional impairments that have far-reaching implications for growth, development, school performance, and peer relationships”. Surprisingly tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease – 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever — however it is highly preventable.
Unfortunately there are a myriad of barriers to oral health preventive care, including — lack of dental insurance or the inability to pay out of pocket, problems of access that involve transportation and the need to take time off from work, lack of dentists that treat children or accept Medicaid/CHP+, and an overall lack of understanding of the importance of good oral health.
To help address these barriers, the Tri-County Health Network has partnered with Forsyth Institute of Boston to provide an evidence-based preventive oral healthcare program known as Skippy. Skippy is offered throughout San Miguel, Ouray, Montrose, and Delta counties in 16 elementary schools.
Skippy is designed to help prevent cavities by addressing the identified barriers and bringing effective preventive oral healthcare to children at risk of decay. Twice each school year, children receive a limited exam, cleaning, dental sealants (plastic-like coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth to form a protective physical barrier from decay), oral hygiene instruction, and fluoride varnish (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force affirms that when used appropriately, fluoride has been demonstrated to be both safe and effective in preventing and controlling tooth decay).
For children who routinely attend Skippy, we have been able to reduce the percentage of children with untreated decay to 20% – an amazing 9% below the national average!
As we get our kids ready for back to school – ensuring they are current on immunizations, have their sports physicals, and their backpacks & school supplies are ready – let’s not forget about the importance of good oral health. If your child does not have a local dentist and you would like your child to receive preventive oral healthcare at his/her school, please contact TCHNetwork at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970.708.7096 to find out when Skippy will be at your child’s school.
A little bit of oral health prevention can go a long way in the overall health of your child!