The Texas Dental Association commissioned a report detailing the state of oral health in Texas. Titled “Building Better Oral Health: A Dental Home for All Texas,” it looked at the economic, medical and social significance of untreated oral disease and gave feedback based on research on how to improve the oral health of the people who reside in the state.
During the research conducted for the report, children were found at great risk due to their vulnerability and reliance on adults to maintain their care.
Dr. Gregory Kerbel, DDS PLLC, highly acclaimed Family and Cosmetic Dentist located in Garland, Texas, says,
“Many parents simply don’t realize that the American Dental Association recommends a child should visit the dentist six months after their first tooth erupts or by their first birthday. The earlier preventive care begins, the higher likelihood of a healthy mouth for the rest of their life. Children with healthy teeth are at lower risk for many health concerns that affect the whole body.”
Some of the factors that affected the children in the studies conducted for the report were:
Children suffering from oral disease miss over 59 million hours of school each year according to the surgeon general of the United States. This affects their ability to learn and the ability of their schools to teach as funding is reliant on attendance. It’s a slippery slope when schools suffer from lack of funding that can disrupt the entire education process. Children who struggle to get the education they need from their early years find it very difficult to catch up and keep up with their peers.
Oral disease, especially when left untreated, doesn’t just affect the mouth. These diseases can enter the bloodstream, and more than 120 systemic diseases come from the oral cavity. Conditions that show association with oral diseases include diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even bacterial pneumonia. Among American children, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease, and it is almost entirely preventable.
Children affected by oral disease often have trouble eating, sleeping and speaking. This can affect how they interact with their peers, teachers, and caregivers. It can also greatly harm their self-esteem during very important formative years. As they grow and develop into adults, their negative feelings about their appearance can translate into trouble socializing and finding employment.
The number one recommendation listed by the report to improve these concerns involved a “dental home” for every Texan. A dental home is a primary dental provider seen at regular intervals with an established relationship with the patient. Children aged 1 to 5 were deemed the most important in this initiative to establish a dental provider that they develop a relationship with and see at least every six months when healthy.
“Tooth decay during a child’s formative years can have serious implications to their long-term well being. Finding a dental home for your family allows for a trusting relationship between dental professional and each member of the family. Regular visits, every six months, with the same provider, allow them to become familiar with the unique structure and details of each individual patient. Then, if something looks off, we can spot it right away. Early detection leads to less invasive and less costly treatment plans. Children also become comfortable with visits to the dentist when they know what to expect and recognize friendly faces. Establishing these healthy habits early on and positive associations with dental appointments can lead to a lifetime of good oral health.”
Another way the report suggested helping children avoid untreated oral health concerns is to require an oral exam before enrolling in school just like a physical exam is required. Other states have found great success with these measures and Texas hopes to follow suit.