Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. It’s five times more common than asthma and 20 times more common than diabetes among children.
Tooth pain affects every aspect of a child’s life, from their ability to speak and eat to how well they can sleep and learn. Imagine trying to focus on schoolwork when you’re in pain and likely aren’t sleeping or eating properly. It’s not surprising that kids with tooth pain are four times more likely to have a low GPA.
Oral health is essential to a child’s overall health and long-term well-being, confidence and success. Yet too many families in Florida face challenges in accessing dental care and maintaining good routine oral care.
This is an ongoing problem that has only gotten worse amid the pandemic, as families experience major shifts in their employment, routines and stress levels. A poll by the American Dental Association found that since the start of the pandemic, more than 50% of dentists saw an increase in patients with chipped or cracked teeth due to clenching and grinding; 30% of dentists saw an increase in gum disease, and more than 25% saw an increase in cavities.
It’s time to invest in solutions that will ensure every child has the opportunity for good oral health. We cannot afford to wait any longer to bring care and relief to our underserved communities.
Recognizing that there are barriers to care, particularly for those who live in rural or underserved areas or those who are disabled or medically compromised, the Florida Dental Association is urging funding for two key initiatives that can be implemented to get immediate care to those in need. For a nominal investment of $773,000, the Legislature can finish what they started in 2019 with the passage of the dental student loan program and Donated Dental Services program.
The dental student loan repayment program will help dentists practice in public health programs and serve low-income patients in designated rural and underserved areas. Florida’s Donated Dental Services program, which connects volunteer dentists with vulnerable patients, including children who are disabled or medically compromised, provides comprehensive dental services – at no cost – in dentists’ offices with support from volunteer dental labs to provide supplies like crowns and dental implants.
We know the dental care needs of children and adults in underserved communities can be extensive and have far-reaching impacts on their overall health and well-being.
By helping connect dentists to where they are needed, we can make a lasting impact on people’s lives and futures. And we can do it now.
These are just two examples of the solutions the Florida Dental Association is championing through our comprehensive Florida’s Action for Dental Health initiative to improve the oral health and overall health of all Floridians.
There are more than 14,000 licensed dentists in Florida, along with more than 30,000 dental team members, who are ready and willing to provide care to those in need today.
We have the workforce.
Now we need our elected leaders to recognize that dental care is essential and invest in solutions to ensure that every child in Florida has good oral health. We can’t afford to wait.
Dr. Andrew Brown is president of the Florida Dental Association and a practicing orthodontist in Orange Park.