February is National Children’s Dental Health month. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans the key to a lifelong, healthy smile is early preventive care. Beginning regular dental visits by the age of 1, using fluoridated water, and brushing twice a day can help prevent painful cavities from forming in a child’s mouth.
“A child with cavities and a painful mouth can lose focus while learning new skills at school and at home. They may also have difficulty eating food, which helps their bodies to grow,” said Stephanie Chickering, RDH, with the IDPH Oral Health Center. “A child with a healthy mouth will have more confidence when speaking, eating, and smiling.”
The IDPH I-Smile™ Dental Home Initiative is a program that helps Iowa's children connect with dental services. Using a team approach, dentists provide definitive evaluation and treatment when it is needed. Other health professionals such as dental hygienists, physicians, and nurses are a part of a larger network and can provide oral screenings, education, anticipatory guidance, and preventive services as needed.
According to Iowa Medicaid paid claims data, 77 percent more (54,873) Medicaid-enrolled children ages 0 to 12 received care from a dentist in 2016 than in 2005 (the year prior to the start of the I-Smile™ program) and 4,572 more children received care from dentists than did in 2015, a 3.8 percent increase. Although more Medicaid-enrolled children ages 0-2 years received care from a dentist and/or within a public health setting in 2016 than in 2005, far too many received no care. In 2016, four out of five children ages 0-2 years did not see a dentist. This is far less than the rate for children ages 3-12 years, of which just two of five did not see a dentist.
For more information about the IDPH Oral Health program, including I-Smile™, visit www.idph.iowa.gov/ohds/oral-health-center.