BATON ROUGE - In recognition of National Children's Dental Health Month, the Louisiana Department of Health partnered with The Health Enrichment Network (THEN) to provide toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss to more than 8,000 children in 23 parishes. The oral hygiene supplies, which were donated to the department by Crest/Oral B and Colgate, will help children in those parishes take preventive measures to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
"We know oral health is directly related to overall health, affecting everything from speech development to sleeping and eating habits," said LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "We also know poor oral health is 100 percent preventable. We only get one chance at protecting our permanent teeth, which is why it's so important that we reach children at a young age and provide them with the tools they need to maintain healthy teeth and gums."
Each February, dentists and hygienists across the state of Louisiana use this opportunity to work within communities and schools to provide oral hygiene instructions to children and their parents, stressing the importance of oral health throughout life. LDH, through its Oral Health Program, supports efforts to raise awareness about oral health and decrease the incidence of tooth decay among all children.
THEN is a non-profit organization that operates in schools to improve the health of those residing in rural and medically underserved areas. THEN's focuses include diabetes, cardiac rehabilitation, general wellness, and the organization also supports a dental initiative through oral health education, dental sealant clinics, and fluoride varnish application.
"Dental care is the most prevalent unmet health need of children in the U.S. - the burden of which is most greatly on children from low-income families. The Growing Up Fit Together program has worked the last six years to provide education and supplies to over 25,000 children in rural, medically underserved communities throughout Louisiana," said Donna Newton, Executive Director of THEN.
Tooth decay is an infection that left untreated can cause abscesses and tooth loss, low self-esteem, and weight issues in children. Nationally, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood- even more common than asthma or hay fever, causing children to miss an estimated 51 million hours of school each year.
According to the Louisiana's Basic Screening Survey (BSS), Bright Smiles for Bright Futures, completed in 2009, 65.7 percent of third graders (2 out of 3) in the state of Louisiana have had cavities. This is compared to the Healthy People 2020 target of 49 percent of children ages 6-9 years with a cavity experience. Also according to the BSS, 33.2 percent of Louisiana's third graders have had to get a dental sealant placed on one or more permanent molars. This compares to the Healthy People 2020 target of 28.1 percent.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov/. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog at www.myhealthla.org, Twitter at http://twitter.com/La_Health_Dept and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LaHealthDept.