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 . MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT - Click Here http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X55700638
SOURCE American Dental Hygienists' Association
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