Patient Care

Kids and Oral Health: What's Standing in the Way?

By BrownGirl, RDH™️ on February, 22 2020
BrownGirl, RDH™️

BrownGirl, RDH is a non-profit organization representing the underrepresented dental hygienist. Our mission is to shift the mindset about who can work in the dental hygiene field, remove cultural and economic barriers to joining the dental hygiene workforce, and establish and promote pathways to dental careers.

If you’re reading this, there's a good chance you work in dentistry. And as a dental professional, oral healthcare is probably second-nature for both you and those in your household.

And there probably aren’t too many barriers (of course not always!) that prevent you and your family from accessing different forms of oral healthcare, whether that struggle includes being uninsured or under-insured, finding time off work for a family dental appointment, or being able to regularly afford necessities such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.

These barriers end up leaving children at risk for complications that would otherwise be preventable. Childhood tooth decay remains the No. 1 chronic disease among children, but the good news is that it’s declining. Significantly.

Overall, 43.1 percent of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 experienced decay in primary and permanent teeth in 2015-16, down from 50 percent reported in 2011-12.

- Association of Health Care Journalists | May 2018

These statistics reflect a phenomenal effort from the dental community to ensure children receive the support they need for a healthy smile. And continuing to build on this effort requires a hard look at the barriers that we have yet to overcome.

Unfortunately, dental professionals still face the challenge of reaching low-income families. Despite the significant efforts in children's oral health awareness, families still struggle to connect children with necessary care.

So what are the key factors that can lead to poor oral health among children? Common barriers include:

  • Financial hardship
  • Demographic locations
  • Ethnic background
  • Language
  • Educational background

According to the CDC, 25% of children ages 5 to 19 in lower-income families are twice as likely to have cavities.

To help decrease the number of children affected, many dental professionals are doing their level best to educate parents and educators on early childhood preventive dental care.

To bridge the gaps, dental professionals are making themselves more accessible to schools, community health fairs, and missionary assignments to rural communities and countries. Additionally, educational resources are becoming more accessible to caregivers and teachers than ever before.

Resources such as Crest, Colgate’s Bright Smiles, Bright Future program and the American Dental Association, just to name a few, provide vital advice for parents, educators and caregivers to effectively communicate with children about oral health care.

Materials on dental care could also be found at local dental offices and dental educational facilities. And, let’s not forget children's dental educational books created by dental hygienists such as Fuzzy Tooth Critters, which teaches children how to detect plaque, brush, floss and eat healthy meals. This book is also available in English and Spanish, helping to break the language barrier.

While many families still struggle with access to a primary dental care, the dental community has made enormous progress in breaking down some of the barriers these families face. And the dental community isn’t slowing the fight anytime soon.

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