A guest post from our friends with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
What is the Single Most Common Childhood Disease in the U.S.?
This might be hard to believe considering that tooth decay is 100% preventable. Even more alarming, tooth decay is nearly three times more prevalent among underserved children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Few parents realize that delaying or skipping dentist visits and/or not incorporating proper oral hygiene and diet into their child’s daily routine can increase a child’s chances for childhood oral disease – which can lead to serious and long-term effects, including malnourishment, learning delays, behavioral problems, or in extreme cases, death.
In 2007, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver from Prince George’s County, Maryland died from an untreated tooth infection that spread to his brain. The state responded to his tragic death by committing to improving pediatric oral health care for all children. Today, Maryland is considered a national leader in addressing children’s oral health needs; yet many children eligible for dental care through the state’s Medicaid program still have not accessed services.
“All too often, families don’t place a lot of emphasis on oral health, unless there’s an emergency.“ says Harry Goodman, DMD, MPH, Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC) board member, and director of the Office of Oral Health at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “It became apparent that we needed to do a better job communicating to parents about how important oral health is to overall health. That is why the MDAC in a strategic partnership with our office created the Maryland Oral Health Literacy Campaign.”
Maryland’s Oral Health Literacy Campaign, entitled Healthy Teeth, Healthy Kids, is a helpful oral health resource for pregnant women and parents of young children. This program is especially important for those individuals who are eligible for dental care through Medicaid, but are not accessing services.
The campaign website – HealthyTeethHealthyKids.org – provides a link to find a dentist in Maryland’s Healthy Smiles Dental Program, the state’s Medicaid program for children, as well as offers oral health tips from prenatal to age six, including:
- If you are a pregnant, visit the dentist – it is safe; the health of your mouth can affect your unborn child;
- Take your child to the dentist by age one;
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
The Healthy Teeth, Healthy Kids free call center (1-855-45-TEETH), available in English and Spanish, provides residents with the convenience of speaking with a person who can answer oral health questions or help find a dentist who accepts Medicaid. The program’s educational brochures and oral health kits are available at community centers and health care facilities around the state.