February is more than the month of love. It’s also a month when thousands celebrate the smiles of children across the nation. National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM), established by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the ADA Foundation, brings together dedicated dental professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers, and many others.
This year’s NCDHM campaign slogan is “Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile.” Fluoridated tap water improves oral health by helping to prevent tooth decay. Fortunately, the Commonwealth is a national leader in fluoridated water; Kentucky has approximately 96% of citizens on a fluoridated water supply.
The recent Delta Dental of Kentucky Making Smiles Happen: Oral Health Study of Kentucky’s Youth uncovered, however, that 49% of 3rd and 6th graders are in need of dental care, and two out of five 3rd and 6th graders have untreated cavities. One resource developed in Kentucky to promote healthy drinking habit is the Drink Pyramid.
Children’s teeth are meant to last a lifetime, and a healthy smile is important to a child’s self-esteem. When teeth are healthy and pain-free, it’s easier to focus, learn, and thrive. To improve children’s oral health, a statewide oral health plan should be developed and launched, a recommendation from the Making Smiles Happen study. By implementing a state oral health plan, we can: assess the current state of oral health, elevate policies, increase prevention efforts, develop and maintain strong oral health workforce, and amplify our resources. Better oral health outcomes lead to healthier kids and families.