CHICAGO, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- More than half of all children ages 6-8 and two-thirds of all adolescents age 15 have dental decay, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. February is National Children's Dental Health Month, a great time to focus on improving oral health care for the nation's children who suffer from serious oral health diseases, says Lisa B. Potter, RDH, president of the American Dental Hygienists' Association. "I encourage all consumers to support the many dental hygienist-sponsored activities planned throughout the country during the month." Dental hygienists strive daily to educate the public about the importance of preventive oral care; however, in February, a special emphasis is made to get this information directly to school-age children and their parents. Past dental hygienist activities aimed at increasing awareness in America's children have included oral health presentations at schools, toothbrush distributions and sealant applications -- placement of a plastic coating on permanent back teeth to prevent bacteria from collecting in small crevices. Potter points to federal data that affirm that while the percentage of children who experience tooth decay has remained fairly consistent, the percentage of children with decay who receive treatment has dropped. She adds that it is estimated that 5-10 percent of young children have baby bottle tooth decay, a severe form of tooth decay, and this percentage triples for children of "low income" families. Potter cites government statistics that indicates for every child in America who does not have medical insurance there are 2.6 children who do not have dental insurance. According to the National Health Interview Survey (1995), 36 percent of U.S. children -- about 27 million -- have no dental coverage. "The good news is that this year, the U.S. Surgeon General will release a special report on the state of America's oral health and that new federal funds for children's health insurance has been directed to dental programs," says Potter. In addition, the Surgeon General's Conference on Children and Oral Health will be held June 12-13, 2000, in Washington, DC, to bring attention to the impact oral health has on children's overall health and well being, and to discuss promoting actions to eliminate disparities in children's oral health. Potter agrees with the U.S. Surgeon General that disparity in children's oral health is everyone's problem. ADHA is the largest national organization representing the professional interests of the more than 100,000 licensed 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 additional oral health information and National Children's Dental Health Month activities in your community, visit the ADHA Web site at adha.org or call the organization toll free at 1-800-847-6718.
SOURCE American Dental Hygienists' Association