Cathy Mills, School Based Health Coordinator at Shawnee Health Center and Leah Smothers, Floss and Gloss Program Manager at Purchase District Health Department – Guest Contributors


Poor oral health is something that most people never consider as they think of their overall health, when in fact it can be detrimental to all aspects of their lives. This is especially true for children. Lack of oral health care can affect the life of a child in ways that we never even consider. Their performance in school, lower self-esteem, and even their success later in life as adults can all be affected by lack of good oral health care. Unfortunately, tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases in the US. Studies have shown that 20% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have at least one untreated cavity with that number doubling for lower income households. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of a pandemic that number is likely to climb.

School based oral health programs are becoming more prevalent across the US and can be our first line of defense in battling the oral health issues of our children. Many families face roadblocks and barriers to care including transportation, childcare, time away from work, and affordability to name only a few. This is where our school-based programs come into play by providing resources that many families would otherwise not have access to.

School based oral health programs have the ability to reach the high-risk population by providing prevention, treatment of disease, and, most importantly, education.  Education can be the foundation for building a healthier future for the children by informing not only the student, but adults of the family and school staff, as well. A strong relationship with the school staff, students, and families is the first building block for creating a successful school-based program. Through these relationships, barriers to basic needs of all kinds can be broken down, allowing these families to succeed and lead healthy and productive lives.

A successful and strong school-based program can be a life changer for both the providers and the families – but caring for your children’s mouth in the summer months is just as important.

Our children tend to keep better routines during the school year. When summer comes, children might stay up late and sleep longer in the mornings. It’s important to remind them to brush and floss with fluoridated

toothpaste twice daily. You can use a brushing chart, and can decide on the reward. Their change in routine can mean a change in meals and snacks too. Summer is a great time to enjoy treats like ice cream, popsicles, and Gatorade. Just remember that moderation is vital to staying cavity-free.  Try stocking up on healthier snacks such as nuts, vegetables, and fruits. Offer children water to drink instead of juice or soda.  Check out this coloring page to help your child make good snacking choices.

You can avoid a dental emergency this summer by investing in a mouth guard and encouraging your child to wear it if they are involved in high-risk sports such as biking, water skiing, tubing, and soccer. Be strict when it comes to pool rules.  Slippery surfaces can lead to cracked teeth, broken jaws, and bloody mouths. Follow standard pool safety rules including no running, no horseplay, and no diving unless permitted.

Take the time to schedule a dental visit before school starts. Kentucky requires dental screenings for entering Kindergarten. It is good to schedule early to get the appointment time that works best for your family.

Have fun with your children this summer. Just don’t forget about their pearly whites!