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WHY we need increased oral health services for all our children

Oral disease is the most severely unmet health care need among children and adolescents and a cause of unnecessary pain and suffering. 

Tooth decay is the single most common chronic disease of childhood. Prevention and regular dental care can make a significant impact on the reduction of dental disease, along with fluoridated water and nutritious food, dental insurance benefits, and an adequate supply of dentists that accept public and private insurance. For many children and families, difficulty accessing care remains one of the most significant barriers to good oral health. Many children live in areas with an inadequate dental network or obstacles such as transportation, language barriers, or lack of dental insurance. For many children covered by Medicaid, community dental providers may not accept their insurance.

Pain and infection from dental problems can result in impaired nutrition and growth and can contribute to increased school absenteeism. School-based oral health programs help reduce absenteeism and improve the overall health of children, with a particular focus on low-income children, to diminish decades of dental health inequities based on race and ethnicity.

Our SBHC program saw so many children with dental abscesses untreated for long periods of time – it was far too common.  So many children lacked dental insurance, or could not access dental care. Many, many children had dental caries identified by the medical staff. The staff wanted to address the problem.  It just made sense to add dental services to the well-established medical and behavioral health services offered through the SBHC.”

Sue Peters, MPH, APRN, RN, Director of School Health Centers, New Haven Public Schools

Below are resources to share with parents, educators, or health care professionals to emphasize why good oral health care is essential to overcoming the silent epidemic of dental disease and achieving overall health and lifelong health.