Something to smile about
Dental health professionals are stressing the importance of teaching good habits early to keep children healthy and smiling.
February is National Children's Dental Health Month. The slogan for 2017 is "Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile," a reminder to limit sugary drinks as part of a dental health regimen along with brushing teeth twice a day for two minutes and making regular visits to the dentist.
Tooth decay affected 55 percent of Minnesota third-graders in 2010, while 18 percent had untreated cavities, according to a 2013 Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Program report. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of children with Medicaid coverage received no dental services by or under the supervision of a dentist in 2011.
The free community CARE Clinic in Red Wing sees a surprising number of pediatric patients with deep tooth decay, said Sheila Arimond, the clinic's dental coordinator. She said there is a general lack of knowledge about dental health and a lack of access to dental care for low-income residents in Goodhue County.
"We at the CARE Clinic want to address that," Arimond said. The clinic already offers some dental services, and there are plans to add an oral health education program to avoid the need for tooth extractions later.
The negative impacts of poor oral health on children can be immediate and long-term, she said. A child with dental pain may do poorly in school due to difficulty concentrating, and tooth decay can cause self-confidence issues that extend into adulthood.
CARE Clinic is open to uninsured Goodhue County residents with annual income at or below 275 percent of the poverty level. For more information on offered services, visit www.careclinicrw.com.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named fluoridation of tap water as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, crediting it as a major contributor to the decline in the rate of tooth decay.
In addition to drinking fluoridated tap water, the state health department recommends the following habits to maintain healthy teeth and gums:
• Visit a dentist regularly
• Brush teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day
• Eat a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables
• Wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports
National Children's Dental Health Month is sponsored by the American Dental Association to raise awareness about oral health.