State oral health program opens wide to help more children - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State oral health program opens wide to help more children

May 21, 2003

Undated-- This year for the first time, low-income children throughout Georgia can get preventive dental screening and care in their schools.

This will fill a big cavity in children’s health, especially in rural areas, according to Joseph Alderman, D.D.S., director of the Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health’s oral health program.

A budget increase of $1 million in Fiscal Year 2001 has enabled the program to employ a dental hygienist supervised by a dentist in each of the state’s 19 public health districts and to buy more mobile units. Three years ago, just eight districts were fully staffed and four others had partial staffing, serving a total of 64 counties.

“We make a special effort to reach children in preschools and elementary schools who qualify for the school lunch program or don’t have dental insurance or access to a dentist,” says Alderman. “We want to teach them that you shouldn’t wait until you have a toothache before going to the dentist. Some of the children we see in rural areas had never been to a dentist before we started to visit their school.”

DHR’s Georgia Oral Health Prevention Program uses portable dental equipment to bring children services such as dental sealants and fluoride rinses to prevent cavities; cleaning and examinations; and referrals to public and private dentists for treatment, in addition to prevention education. Eleven mobile dental trailers and vans are in the field, up from two vans in 2000. Public Health also treats children in public health clinics in 36 counties, some paid for in part by county and municipal funds.

Recent research also shows links between poor oral health and other serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. Almost a third of tooth decay among poor children goes untreated in this country. We hope to change that in Georgia with our expanded program.

For additional information, visit the Georgia Oral Health Program web pages at www.health.state.ga.us/programs/oral