Save Your Child’s Smile, Don’t Neglect Oral Health – CBS Dallas/Fort Worth
NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Don’t neglect your child’s dental health. That’s the message for this month of February, which is also Children’s Dental Health Awareness Month.
In the most recent Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by Cook Children’s, oral health continues to be one of the issues affecting children living in the eight county service area (Collin, Denton, Grayson, Hood, Johnson, Parker, Tarrant and Wise).
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According to parents and guardians in the 8 county service area:
• 1 in 4 children (an estimated total of 313,000 children aged 1 to 17) does not have excellent/very good dental health.
• 1 in 7 children (about 175,000 children aged 1 to 17) have had dental problems, such as toothache, bleeding gums, decayed teeth or cavities in the past year.
• 1 in 7 children (an estimated total of 175,000 children aged 1-17) did not receive all necessary dental care in the past year – mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, d inadequate insurance, cost, or available dentists who accept Medicaid. This rate is higher than national and state estimates before the pandemic.
• 7% of school-aged children (about 55,000 children aged 6-17) have missed school due to dental problems in the past year.
Children’s oral health requires proper preventive care and prompt treatment of dental problems. Children with untreated dental problems may struggle with pain, eating, self-esteem, or school performance. In more serious cases, children need emergency care, hospitalization or surgery. Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the United States and Texas.
Factors that promote oral health include:
• Equitable access to preventive dental care and prompt treatment.
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• Awareness of preventive dental care and its importance for general well-being.
• Case management and support from community health workers to help children receive the dental care and services they need.
To help curb the problem, in 2003 Cook Children’s created the save a smile initiative. Program director Dr. Tonya Fuqua said her mission was to make sure families don’t forget the importance of dental health to overall health.
“If a child can’t function, he can’t eat and feed himself,” she explained. “If they are in pain, they cannot learn, stay in school and be healthy.”
We spoke with Dr. Fuqua at a recent event at Tarrant County Community College, where dental school students offered free teeth cleanings to kids who otherwise couldn’t be seen.
“I appreciate their help,” said Jamila Malik, whose daughter Eshaal was one of the students doing the housework. “Being a single parent, it’s really hard for me to cover every individual because I have three kids.”
save a smile is in 21 pre-screened local elementary schools. Students undergo dental screening to identify those most in need. For those who do not have insurance, they are set up with a volunteer provider who will take care of them for free.
To learn more about Save a Smile or to ask questions about the program, visit their website.
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