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Dental Health Month: Preventing a “Sweet Tooth” from Becoming a Problem

Good oral-health habits can decrease the incidence of cavities among children. (woodypino/Pixabay)
Good oral-health habits can decrease the incidence of cavities among children. (woodypino/Pixabay)
February 14, 2018

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – While Valentine candy might be tempting to Kentucky boys and girls, dental-health professionals say it's crucial to ensure it doesn't turn into a problem.

February is National Children's Dental Health Month, and health-care groups say it's about more than teaching kids to brush twice a day and floss regularly.

Jennifer Hasch, a registered dental hygienist in Louisville, says regular visits to the dentist help instill consistent oral hygiene habits in children that can decrease the incidence of cavities.

"Having that access to a dental provider can catch things when they're small," Hasch says. "A cavity that is small can be fixed with a simple restoration, whereas something that gets larger over time can lead to abscess and systemic infection."

Data from a 2016 study of oral health among Kentucky children found that greater numbers of kids have urgent dental problems, and nearly two in five have untreated cavities. But Hasch says more in Kentucky also have dental coverage now, through the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid.

Hasch explains getting dental care is a challenge for some Kentucky families, with about 100 Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas in the state.

This means nearly 480,000 Kentuckians live in a region where there aren't enough dentists to meet the local needs. She says there also aren't many dental-care providers in the state who accept Medicaid.

"In our more urban areas, it's a little more saturated, but even still, you can find two to three weeks - sometimes even a months-long wait - for a child to access dental care," Hasch laments. "And when you're talking about active infection or abscess, that can be the difference between life and death."

The Kentucky Oral Health Coalition is among the groups working to improve oral health awareness, remove barriers to access, and expand school-based oral health-care services.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY