Children focus of Oral Health Summit
Concerned Pocahontas countians, dental professionals and educators gathered Friday at Mountain Quest Institute for an Oral Health Summit to discuss improving oral health for the people of Pocahontas County.
Gina Sharps, RDH with the WVU School of Dentistry and the Department of Dental Practice and Rural Health, said oral health practices should begin in the first year of a childﾒs life.
ﾓHow many times have you heard parents, grandparents or caregivers say thereﾒs no need to fix them because they are coming out anyway when talking about baby teeth?ﾔ Sharps asked. ﾓThere is a need to fix them. Primary teeth are important.
They help guide the permanent teeth into position, they help maintain good nutrition through chewing and normal speech development.ﾔ
Sharps added that if there is decay in a primary (baby) tooth and it is not treated, the decay can lead to an abscess and possible hospitalization of the child.
ﾓThese problems are not fixed in the dentist office, they are fixed in the OR [Operating Room],ﾔ Sharps said.
Dental decay is the single most chronic childhood disease and can cause permanent damage as the child grows into adulthood.
ﾓOral health is related to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, bacterial endocarditis, respiratory disease and associated with poor birth outcomes,ﾔ Sharps said. ﾓThere are also psycho-social implications associated with poor oral health. People develop low self esteem and difficulty finding jobs.ﾔ
Sharps said one act of prevention of decay in childrenﾒs teeth is fluoride. She said the cost of fluoridation for one person for life is less than the price of one filling.
Jay Miller, former county coordinator, said of 12 locations in the county, only three schools are included in those that have fluoridated water supplies ﾖ Marlinton Elementary School, Marlinton Middle School and Pocahontas County High School.
Miller and Dr. Jason Roush, State Dental Director of the West Virginia Office of Maternal, Child and Family Health both discussed children with Medicaid and CHIP cards. In Pocahontas County, 49.4 percent of the children, ages five to 18, are enrolled in one of these two programs.
Dental services are free to children with either a Medicaid or CHIP card, yet only one in five children enrolled in those programs receives a single dental visit each year.
Pocahontas County Health Department Director Linda McCoy said the department discontinued offering fluoride tablets in the schools in the mid 90s due to loss of funding and because a prescription is now needed for the tablets.
Louise T. Veselicky, DDS, MBS, MBE, said it is important to engage parents in a program in order to improve the oral health of children.
ﾓOne of the things I think is so important is teaching parents how important it is for children to have good oral health,ﾔ she said. ﾓWhat I see happening is weﾒll try to help these kids, weﾒll get them excited about health and by age 21, the gong goes off and all of a sudden, itﾒs going down hill from there.ﾔ
Veselicky added that the amount of concern over oral health is lacking in adults.
ﾓIf you were taking a shower, washing your arms, and they started bleeding, you would freak out but if you brush your teeth and spit blood out, you donﾒt even think about it. There is a disconnect there somewhere,ﾔ she said.
On top of the typical oral health issues, like refusal to brush and floss, Veselicky said children, especially adolescents, face issues brought on by society.
ﾓThere is a concern with the use of tobacco and eating disorders,ﾔ she said. ﾓWe are teaching tobacco intervention strategies to our dental students.ﾔ
Veselicky added that she is working with a group of pharmacists on a dry mouth initiative. Research shows that about 600 prescription medications cause dry mouth. Patients using these medications are more prone to cavities.
Bobbi Jo Muto, RDH, BS, Marshall University School of Dentistry Community Oral Health Coordinator, presented information on a grant program that assists with oral health education in West Virginia.
The School Community Partnership for Childrenﾒs Oral Health in West Virginia is a program that provides funding for communities or schools to educate their children and provide them with free dental screenings.
ﾓThe funding covers things that are always hard to get money for including travel for the children to the dentist and supplies like gauze and gloves,ﾔ Muto said. ﾓThe granters are very strong in their thinking that a community needs to solve its own problems. It is better for a community to work on the program than for me to come into a community I know nothing about, and tell the people what is best for them.ﾔ
Muto suggested that if an agency in Pocahontas County applies for the grant, to begin planning for the program needs to begin now. The grant has been awarded to schools, community groups and school-based centers, which brings a dentist into the school and offers free screenings to the students.
ﾓYou should get shovel ready before applying for the grant, get your program together and be prepared when the money is awarded,ﾔ she said.
Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Administrator Barbara Lay said she has had experience with a school based center. She offered to give assistance in any way to provide better oral care to the children of Pocahontas County.
ﾓI helped start a school-based center in Calhoun County and wrote a federal oral health grant in 2002 for the program,ﾔ she said.