February Is National Children's Dental Month
February is National Children's Dental Health Month, and this year celebrates its 60th anniversary. Healthy teeth enable children to speak properly, eat healthy food, and build self-esteem and confidence.
Although tooth decay is preventable, not enough children get early preventive care.
The American Dental Association recommends that children have a dental exam by their first birthday; however, more than half of Iowa's general dentists do not see children younger than age 3. In addition, more than half of all Medicaid-enrolled children in Iowa received no dental care in 2007.
The Iowa Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) I-Smile program is working to prevent disease, help families get dental care, and create awareness of the importance of children's oral health. The program was developed to meet a 2005 legislative mandate that all Medicaid-enrolled children ages 12 and younger have a dental home. Through multiple health care providers, the I-Smile dental home assures children receive early and regular care, including education, screenings, preventive services, and treatment.
"We've seen a phenomenal increase in important preventive dental services among children since I-Smile began," said IDPH Oral Health Bureau chief, Dr. Bob Russell. "More than 41,350 children received dental care coordination last year."
During National Children's Dental Health Month, dozens of I-Smile activities are planned across the state. In Linn County, for example, as many as 700 children are expected to take part in the "Give Kids a Smile Event" in which 7 volunteer dentists, along with dental hygienists, assistants and students will provide free oral screenings, fluoride varnish applications, and more, along with fun activities and prizes. In Lee County, 15 dentists have agreed to see about 140 children.
Woodbury County expects as many as 170 children to be examined by volunteering dentists.