Good News for Kids’ Oral Health

On Thursday morning, two bills were delivered to Governor Beebe that will greatly improve the oral health of children in Arkansas by reducing their chances of having tooth decay. Senate Bill 42 will allow dental hygienists to perform procedures for people in public settings without the direct supervision of a dentist. This will allow more children to get beneficial treatments like preventative oral care, fluoride treatments, and dental sealants.  Since Arkansas has about 2471 people for every dentist in the state, many children do not even have access to proper oral health care. Dental hygienists are currently performing all these procedures; this bill will just allow them to perform them without a dentist present and at area health centers and schools. Senate Bill 43 will increase children’s access to a fluoride varnish by allowing physicians and nurses to apply the varnish after appropriate training and instruction. Physicians are often the first and sometimes only health professional that children see and this will allow doctors to give much needed preventative care.

When most people think of medical care and health, they don’t think of oral health.  owever, studies have shown that a person’s oral health greatly impacts their daily activities and overall health.  urrently, tooth decay is the most chronic condition of childhood and is associated with difficulty sleeping, eating, learning and getting proper nutrition.  hildren with chronic mouth pain miss far more days of school, which negatively impacts their school readiness and performance.  mproving children’s access to good oral health care will increase children’s chances of success in the future.

Recently, The Pew Center on the States released a study about the state of dental health in America.  rkansas was one of only seven states that received an “F” grade, partly due to the limited access to preventative oral health procedures. A big thanks goes out to Senator David Johnson for his sponsorship and hard work on the passage of SB 42 and 43!  With his help, Arkansas is on its way to greatly improving the oral health of children in Arkansas!