Why Children’s Oral Health Matters for Arkansas
is National Children’s Oral Health Month and studies show that tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the United States.
Dental disease can affect many aspects of a child’s life, from developing poor eating and sleeping habits, to disrupting school performance and even lowering their self-esteem. Yet, many Arkansas families are not in a position to schedule regular dental visits due to a myriad of factors, such as lack of dental coverage or access to a nearby dental provider.
What are some preventative steps that we can take to help stop oral health problems before they start and provide access to affordable, quality oral health for Arkansas’ children?
• Increased access to high quality health care. Regular well-child visits are very important for early identification of health issues. That’s why increased education surrounding prevention and improving oral hygiene during early childhood years is important. ARKids First A and Medicaid beneficiaries are entitled to full Early, Periodic, Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefits based on federal mandates. This includes oral screenings, dental examinations and preventative treatment.
• Schedule a child’s first dental visit as soon possible. By visiting the dentist early, parents are able to establish a “dental home” for your child. This will encourage him/her to become more comfortable in a dental setting and allows the dentist to learn more about your child’s needs earlier. After the visit, parents should continue talking and teaching children about dental health and proper oral care.
• Support for public-private partnerships. Organizations such as The Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation funds in-hospital dental clinics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and CARTI. They also help fund three mobile dental units with Arkansas Children’s Hospital that bring dental services to underserved children at elementary schools across Arkansas and many community dental clinics. Collaborations between businesses and statewide organizations can help alleviate some of the cost burden for low income families who are unable to afford dental care.
• Encourage policies that prioritize children’s oral health. By working to remove oral health disparities, we are investing in the economic development of Arkansas. The earlier a child is able to receive quality dental care, the less likely they will develop long term oral health illnesses that could eventually present an undue economic burden for families. It is also unlikely that they will carry those illnesses into adulthood that could lead to other serious medical conditions later in life.
Let’s work together to ensure that healthier children equal a healthier future for Arkansas. For more information about National Children’s Oral Health Month, visit The American Dental Association. To learn more about child health and wellness, visit Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.