The importance of dental health in children
Editor’s note: The Coalition on Human Needs is participating in the Children’s Blog Carnival, hosted and sponsored by the Children’s Leadership Council. Today’s post is authored by Natalie Shaffer, Public Affairs Associate at Oral Health America.
By Natalie Shaffer
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children – left untreated, it can cause pain that leads to difficulty eating, sleeping, and concentrating in school– but, good news, it’s also one of the most preventable!
Thanks to Congress’s 10-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), states have the resources to provide nearly 9 million children and over 350,000 pregnant mothers with much needed medical and dental coverage. CHIP has been a testament to successful bipartisan work since it was first passed in 1997 and has drastically reduced the number of uninsured children across the country. A ten year reauthorization offers stability to the state as well as parents as they seek care for their children.
In conjunction, school-based sealant programs are considered an evidence-based, public health best practice for preventing tooth decay in children, especially those at high risk. Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth to protect them against tooth decay. School-based sealant programs have been associated with reducing the rate of tooth decay by 40-60%.
Teaching children good oral health habits at an early age is important. Mothers can reduce the risk of passing on cavities to their child by taking care of their oral health before and during pregnancy. In order to start a healthy dental routine at an early age, it is recommended that parents start dental visits around age 1, when baby teeth first emerge, and continue to visit a dental professional every 6 months. And what you eat matters! Choose fluoridated water over sugary beverages, and low fat dairy products, whole grains, vegetables and fruits to help promote a lifetime of healthy, happy smiles.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Start early! Practice good oral health habits during pregnancy and before age 1.
- Know your coverage! The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides free or low-cost health coverage (including dental) to millions of Americans, including some low-income people, families and children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. Find out if you qualify
- Contact your legislator and advocate for school-based sealant programs. Use Children’s Dental Health Project’s School-Based Sealant Program recommendations as a guide.