By Kyle LoJacono
Cavities are the most common chronic disease for children ages 6-19, and 90 percent of all adults will have some form of tooth decay during their lifetime.
The Pasco County Health Department wants to bring down those numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is partnering with the American Dental Association to promote National Dental Hygiene Month in October.
“Tooth decay in children and the health problems that come with it deserves our attention,” said Pasco Health Officer Dr. David Johnson. “Prevention works, and it simply involves developing the right habits.”
Dental cavities are caused by a deterioration of the tooth enamel, according to the CDC. Bacteria on teeth break down leftover food particles and produce acid that results in the decay.
Johnson said the most frustrating thing about cavities and tooth decay is that most forms are largely preventable with simple hygiene steps. For that reason the campaign in Pasco this year has the theme “It’s simple. Healthy habits for a healthy smile.”
Johnson said the best ways to prevent the problems are:
–Brush teeth at least twice a day to remove plaque
–Floss daily, preferably before going to sleep
–Eat healthy and nutritious foods and limit sugary carbonated drinks
–Visit a dentist for checkups and cleanings twice a year
–Wear a mouth guard while playing sports
Johnson also advocates for children younger than age 18 to receive a fluoride treatment twice per year to build up their teeth enamel. He said some people are weary about the chemical’s effect but stressed it helps strengthen teeth to reduce the risk of cavities later in life.
Johnson said the treatments are even more important in Pasco, as the county does not put fluoride in its drinking water as a cost saving measure.
Johnson said new sealant treatments also help prevent cavities in a similar way as fluoride.
The department recently received federal grant money to provide sealant treatments to Pasco’s Title I schools, those with the largest number of students receiving free or reduced priced lunches. Second graders at such schools can receive the treatments for free.
“With the support of the district school board and health services staff we have already visited six of the 22 schools that will be part of the program and have sealed over 1,000 teeth,” said Dr. Beth Genho. She added the program will return to the schools later in the year to treat more children.
The department is also working with Drs. Michael Valancius, Leslie Hernandez and Genho to educate children about caring for their teeth. The pediatric dental team’s outreach program is stationed at Rodney Cox Elementary in Dade City and the Pasco Health Department office in New Port Richey. For more information about the program, call (727) 861-5250.
The health department also offers dental services by appointment to those ages 1-20 who have Florida Medicaid at 10841 Little Road in New Port Richey. Services include exams, X-rays, cleanings, fillings, sealants and more. To schedule a dental appointment or speak to a representative, call (727) 861-5260 ext. 284.
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