CHICAGO, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Tooth decay is the most common chronic
childhood disease, affecting 50 percent of first graders and 80 percent of 17-
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
"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