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Reflecting on Progress Made in Kids’ Oral Health

As oral health professionals, we know that achieving good oral health for children is sometimes not a simple proposition.

For the past 37 years, National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) has been celebrated to raise awareness of the importance of good oral health in children. This year’s NCDHM, sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA) and Crest + Oral B, focuses on the positive effects of brushing with fluoride toothpaste and interdental cleaning. As oral health professionals, we understand the importance of these efforts, not only from a health standpoint, but because they bring various disciplines together for a common cause. Medical providers, teachers, and parents/caregivers are all part of this annual initiative and play key roles in spreading its message.

Each NCDHM, I tend to think back on preventive and treatment advances made since the previous NCDHM. I recall how, not that long ago, fluoride varnish became mainstream and sealants secured importance as a preventive measure. This past year, silver diamine fluoride was widely discussed. To read more about this innovative treatment for caries and new guidelines for its use, see the Guest Editorial from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry President James D Nickman, DDS, MS. Another recent development that significantly impacted children’s oral and overall health was the extension of the budget for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for an additional 6 years. CHIP has maintained widespread support from Democrats and Republicans since its inception in 1997. Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) championed the legislation. The results over the past 20 years show that it’s an effective program. Before its creation, 14% of children in the United States didn’t have health insurance, and access to medical and dental care among this population was extremely low. According to the 2011 National Health Interview Survey, after implementation of CHIP, the number of uninsured children decreased by half, with only 7% of children lacking insurance.1 A 2014 report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured showed that children covered by CHIP had a higher rate of access to and use of dental care than uninsured children.2 The report also found that children are more likely to have an identified source of medical and dental care (ie, dental home) and to use preventive care after enrollment. In addition, unmet medical and dental needs are less likely.

This year’s NCDHM theme is “Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile.” This simple message can be easily incorporated into a child’s daily routine. As oral health professionals, we know that achieving good oral health for children is sometimes not a simple proposition. It takes innovations in treatment and prevention, along with dedicated programs to improve health outcomes. During next year’s NCDHM, I look forward to reflecting on the progress made, as we work to improve children’s oral health.

 Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
     Editor in Chief


  1. Adams PF, Kirzinger WK, Martinez ME. Summary health statistics for the U.S. population: National Health Interview Survey, 2011. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10. 2012;255:1–110.
  2. Paradise J. The Impact of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): What Does the Research Tell Us? Available at: insurance-program-chip-what-does-the-research-tell-us.pdf. Accessed January 27, 2018.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. February 2018;16(2):10.

1 Comment
  1. Jackie says

    18% of America’s children have untreated dental decay even though approx. 70% of community water systems are fluoridated. This is an atrocious statistic. Silver diamine fluoride is a treatment and does not nothing to prevent the caries process from affecting other teeth (lots more work to do in educating the public and our work must focus on PREVENTION, not treatment). Obamacare, which had many provisions for community health centers and provided some funding for children’s dental care, is constantly under attack and, this past year, CHIP went unfunded for 114 days, leaving these vulnerable children without a safety net (lots more work to do on the legislative front).

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