ADHA: Dental Hygienists Offer Ways to Improve Children's Failing Oral Health Grades During National Children's Dental Health Month and Beyond

    CHICAGO, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Tooth decay is the most common chronic
 childhood disease, affecting 50 percent of first graders and 80 percent of 17-
 year-olds.
     A great time to focus on ways to improve oral health care for the nation's
 children who suffer from tooth decay and other serious oral health diseases is
 February -- National Children's Dental Health Month. This year's observance
 comes one week after a consumer advocacy group gave the nation a poor oral
 health grade in the areas of disease prevention and access to care. The
 nation's oral health has been monitored on a state-by-state basis after the
 U.S. Surgeon General's 2000 report, Oral Health in America, called the
 nation's poor oral health a "silent epidemic."
     Vast improvements need to occur within America's oral health care system
 before it can reach the millions of children who do not receive care at all,
 according to an access to care position paper issued recently by the American
 Dental Hygienists' Association.
     The paper points out that financial barriers keep millions of children
 from receiving oral care, while state laws and regulations prevent dental
 hygienists from providing preventive services and treatment outside private
 dental offices.
     "Preventive measures used to combat tooth decay include the fluoridation
 of community drinking water, the application of protective coverings called
 sealants placed on tooth surfaces and routine preventive services -- cleaning
 of the teeth -- that are provided by dental hygienists," said ADHA President
 Ann E. Naber, RDH.
     Dental disease, an infectious disease that affects children and adults,
 may be the most prevalent -- yet preventable -- disease known. In fact, the
 Surgeon General's report stated that signs and symptoms of many potentially
 life-threatening diseases appear in the mouth first, when they are most
 treatable. Dental hygienists routinely look for these signs and symptoms
 during oral exams.
     "Dental hygienists can't stress enough that proper oral hygiene habits
 should start at an early age," said Naber. "Research continues to identify
 periodontal (gum) disease as a risk factor in many serious and life-
 threatening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, low-birthweight babies
 and respiratory disease."
     ADHA advocates that the services of dental hygienists can be fully
 utilized in all public and private practice settings to deliver preventive and
 therapeutic oral health care safely and effectively to children and adults.
     Naber concludes that access to the preventive oral health care services
 dental hygienists provide, combined with state efforts to improve oral health,
 can help close the gap between Americans who receive oral health care and
 those who do not -- especially children.
     ADHA is the largest national organization representing the professional
 interests of the approximately 140,000 dental hygienists across the country.
     Dental hygienists are preventive oral health professionals, licensed in
 dental hygiene, who provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services
 that support total health through the promotion of optimal oral health.
     If you would like more information about dental hygiene, preventive oral
 health, or the connection between periodontal (gum) disease and life-
 threatening illnesses or to view ADHA's recently issued position paper on
 access to care, visit ADHA's Web site at www.adha.org .
 
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SOURCE American Dental Hygienists' Association

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