Good oral health is an integral component of healthy development and optimal childhood learning. Children free from dental pain and infection can focus on their schooling. Tooth decay and other dental diseases can not only have long-lasting impacts on a child’s ability to learn, but also to speak and eat. That is why the Making Smiles Happen Surveillance Initiative is a critical assessment in monitoring Kentucky children’s oral health status.
Conducting a statewide survey of children’s oral health is essential for setting achievable objectives, as well as for planning, implementing, and evaluating current oral health programs and initiatives. With support from the Delta Dental of Kentucky Foundation, Kentucky Youth Advocates is working with the University of Louisville School of Dentistry and other key partners to conduct the 18-month project to identify the current status of child oral health and recommendations for improvements.
The Making Smiles Happen Surveillance Initiative worked with a trained dentist to screen 3rd and 6th graders in 60 schools across the state, whose parents had completed consent forms and a parent questionnaire, to look for the presence of dental decay and sealants. Though the goal was to screen 6,000 students, approximately 1,800 3rd and 6th graders were screened and over 8,000 received a toothbrush regardless of whether or not they participated. The findings will be released in the fall and distributed across the state.
Thank you to the Delta Dental Foundation of Kentucky for making this project possible. Thank you also to all of the superintendents who understand the importance of collecting this data, and have allowed us to come into their schools. They know the value this kind of effort will have for not just their own kids, but for all children statewide.