More Kentucky kids have urgent mouth health needs

More Kentucky children are in need of major dental care, even though access to oral health care has improved over the past 15 years.

Those numbers come from a report released on Wednesday as part of the state-wide initiative Making Smiles Happen. 

It found 49 percent of kids examined in west Kentucky have untreated tooth decay. In eastern Kentucky, that is 53 percent. Numbers in most parts of the state are up from 2001.

When leaving a dental clinic after a check-up on Wednesday, Teal Gill already had dentist appointments set up for her daughter Ashley.

"Kids that don’t eat well, they don’t gain weight, they feel hungry, they can’t concentrate at school. It’s a very big deal for kids to have teeth that hurt or that make them sick.

Delta Dental’s 2016 Oral Health Study on Kentucky’s Youth shows more children have urgent dental problems, and children coming from low-income families have some of the worst.

"$2,000 to have a route canal is completely out of budget for people like us," Teal says.

Those findings are no surprise to dentists at University of Kentucky’s regional dental clinic in Benton. 

Since the clinic opened on Aug. 1, dentist have seen kids in need of dental work sent over from local schools on a weekly basis.

The clinic’s general dentist, Dustin Hall, says part of the problem is very few providers accept Medicaid insurance.

"The child is having pain, maybe they didn’t sleep much the night before, they’re missing school and now they have no where to go for help,’ Hall says.

Hall says the other problem is that parents aren’t getting their children checked at an early age. He says kids should go to a dentist on a regular basis when their first teeth come in. 

Teal is trying to get her daughter’s dental health back on track.

"I want my kids to have the best health they can have, and their dental health is very important to that too," she says.

The report also makes recommendations including creating goals and objectives for a statewide oral health plan and collecting oral health data from the state and counties on a regular basis. 
A lot of people don’t realize you can get sealant on your teeth that prevents cavities. The report shows more than half the children examined in the report don’t have that.

The University of Kentucky’s dental clinic in Benton, Kentucky, does treat all patients, including those on Medicaid. It’s located in the Marshall County Health Department on 267 Slickback Road.. It takes walk-in visits from 8 a.m. through 10 a.m. on Monday through Thursday. Because the call volume is so high, you can go either go there or email to make an appointment.

For a look at the full Making Smiles Happen Report click here.