February is National Children’s Dental Health Month so each year Ames Center for Cosmetic and Family Dentistry take the opportunity to bring attention to the needs of children. Many people are unaware of the important role early dental care plays in children’s overall health. The ADA recommends that parents take action early to insure the health of their children’s teeth because attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life.
During the month of February, the Ames Center for Cosmetic and Family Dentistry staff went out to the public schools and shared oral health information and practices with second grade classes. They also participated in a national one-day event, Give Kids a Smile. On Friday, March 7, the team gave of their time and resources to hold a free dental clinic for selected needy children from the Ames area. Children without a dentist were provided a free exam and cleaning, as well as possible sealant and fluoride treatments. Fillings and extractions were done also. ACCFD provided approximately $11,000 worth of free dentistry.
Give Kids A Smile – Centerpiece to National Children’s Dental Health Month
Give Kids A Smile is designed to provide education, preventive and restorative care to children from low-income families who do not have access to care and to encourage parents, health professionals and policymakers to address this important health issue. “ It’s heart-breaking to see a child’s smile destroyed by severe tooth decay,” said Dr. Amie Rockow- Nelson. “This year we saw 31 children, ages 6 – 18. Many had never been to the dentist and really needed treatment. It is very rewarding for us to be able to give back to the community by providing this care. Ames School District partners with us to identify children who would benefit. We so appreciate their help and the help of volunteers each year. I am so proud of my team who comes and works all day without pay! The kids we served were just great too… so cooperative and polite.”
Among parents with school-aged children, 17 percent say that their child has missed at least one day of school due to dental related pain or illness – the most common chronic childhood disease in America. In fact, tooth decay (cavities) affects one fifth (21.1 percent) of children 6– 11 years of age, over half (59 percent) of children 12 to 19 years of age, and over 90 percent of adults 20 years and over. Dental disease among kids from underserved families is epidemic. Eighty percent of children’s tooth decay is found in just 25% of children. Yet many of these children, even with Medicaid, never see a dentist throughout the year. Oral health is integral to overall health. Untreated dental disease is painful and affects a child’s physical, emotional and social development. Children with untreated dental problems can’t eat and sleep normally. They may not be able to concentrate in school or feel good about their appearance.
But when it comes to healthy mouths, there is a reason to smile. Dental disease and tooth decay really is preventable, beginning with daily care, good nutrition, and education. Sixty-eight percent of parents say teaching children to brush and floss twice daily is among the most important health care concerns for their children. Ultimately, the money spent on prevention saves a lot more money later in life. As Give Kids a Smile celebrates its 13th anniversary this year, Ames Center for Cosmetic and Family Dentistry is proud of what they are accomplishing. However, volunteer programs cannot replace a good health care system. Dr. Amie hopes to not only help children get the dental care they so desperately need, but also to raise awareness that our children deserve a better system that addresses their dental health. “Dentists are doctors of oral health,” she said. “We can relieve pain and make people well. But we can’t solve the health crisis alone. I believe the community and policy-makers need to work together with the medical professionals to reduce the barriers to dental care. Ensuring that children have good oral health and education should be a priority.”