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Keeping Up With Kids' Dental Health During Summer Vacation

Missouri ranked 41st in the nation for the number of residents who saw a dentist in 2016, according to Missouri's Kids Count. (collusion/Pixabay)
Missouri ranked 41st in the nation for the number of residents who saw a dentist in 2016, according to Missouri's Kids Count. (collusion/Pixabay)
June 4, 2018

ST. LOUIS — Summer is a time when kids might get away with less sleep and eat fewer meals, but it's not a time dental health should be ignored.

In 2016, Missouri's Kids Count found that 73 percent of the state's kids had teeth considered in excellent or very good condition. Program director Tracy Greever-Rice said that's despite the fact that Missouri has an aging dental workforce and a limited number of dentists in rural areas.

"Missouri has a dentist workforce shortage,” Greever-Rice said. “And much of the state falls into a workforce-shortage area."

Greever-Rice also noted that Missouri's low-income kids often lack access to a dentist. In 2016, Missouri had about 48 dentists per 100,000 people, which is below the national average of 60.8; and ranked 41st in the U.S. for the number of residents who saw a dentist.

Kids Count is a project of the Family and Community Trust supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

According to the Missouri Department of Health, dental health can predict overall health, meaning children miss fewer days of school. Greever-Rice noted it also can impact chronic disease such as diabetes, so it's important during the summer months when kids are off from school that they eat healthy meals and avoid junk food.

"The other thing that can happen for kids that puts them at higher risk during the off-school season is that schools provide a lot of nutrition in Missouri,” she said. “So quality of diet definitely has an impact on oral health."

Greever-Rice added that 40 percent of Medicaid-eligible children in the state do not have access to dental services.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MO