Guest column: Improving the oral health of Grand County’s children
Ryan Summerlin February 25, 2014
As local professionals who worked together to conduct oral health screenings throughout Grand County earlier this school year, we would like to celebrate February, National Children’s Dental Health Month, by thanking the community for their widespread support of oral health initiatives in Grand County.
All five elementary-aged schools in the county participated in this year’s screening events, meaning that every child attending school aged K-5th grade was given the opportunity to partake completely free of charge. In total, oral screenings were conducted on 689 children, over 300 of whom received fluoride treatment. Such a level of involvement proves that Grand County is truly committed to improving the oral health of its children.
Local improvement of oral health is more than just a lofty goal. In fact, the numbers demonstrate our community’s progress. In 2005, 59 percent of kids in Grand County had untreated decay. Today, that number is closer to 16 percent. Rarely do communities, big or small, rural or urban, accomplish such change within one decade. Together, we are achieving exceptional results.
A special thanks goes to the many educators, school staff members, dentists, public health practitioners, and parents who make oral health a priority our children. Whether it is incorporating oral health education into the classroom or encouraging good dental habits at home, the success of this community stems from support coming from multiple angles.
Though we are making amazing progress, we can do better. Many children in the county are still without a dental home, meaning that they do not have a dentist who knows them and sees them consistently. Every child age 1 and older should visit the dentist every six months, and several organizations in the community are working to ensure that this is possible, regardless of income or insurance status. Also, the majority of kids in Grand County, nearly 75 percent, live in areas without fluoride in their water. This is true despite the fact that water fluoridation is inexpensive, safe, and proven to reduce tooth decay by 20-40 percent. Dental cavities are currently the leading chronic disease among Colorado’s children, five-times more prevalent than asthma. As long as this is the case, our community work is not yet finished.
That said, we are confident that Grand County will continue to advance this initiative. Again, thank you to all who actively support the oral health for kids in the community, and happy National Children’s Dental Health month. Together we are making a significant difference.