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Tooth decay serious in Cass County kids

Published 9:03pm Thursday, November 15, 2012

CASSOPOLIS — Cass County’s infants and toddlers could be at risk for a variety of health issues unless parents make a point of early dental care.

The study was commissioned by the Early Childhood Investment Corp. at the urging of the Head Start-State Collaboration Office.  It was conducted by University of Michigan’s Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit.

The report noted that, despite national goals to address dental problems in children, the prevalence of dental decay has increased in the past 10 years in Michigan.

Tooth decay in baby teeth is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever in children. It is the most chronic childhood disease.

Each year, American children miss 51 million hours of school because of oral health problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Having this information available will hopefully encourage parents to begin dental care earlier, both in the home, as well as at a dentist’s office,” according to Heather Merrill of Lewis Cass Intermediate School District’s Great Start Collaborative.

The study, which reviewed 12,000 dental screens of young children in Head Start and other early learning programs across Michigan, also found:

• Dentists are reluctant to treat babies and infants even though the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends first dental visits by age 1 or when the first tooth erupts.

• Two out of three parents said they were unaware children should have a firstdental visit by age 1.

A serious access-to-care gap exists for children covered by Medicaid, with only one dentist available for every 822 children on traditional Medicaid. Nationally and in Michigan, oral health problems are most common among low-income children served by Medicaid, Head Start and other government programs.

Poor dental care has led to serious health problems for children and even hospitalization.

According to The Pew Center on the States, expensive emergency room visits are being used too often for preventable dental problems, burdening state budgets.

The U-M report calls for expansion of the Healthy Kids Dental program, which vastly improves access to dental care for Medicaid-eligible children by offering dentists a reimbursement rate to help cover their costs.


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