At Piedmont Health, dental health is part of overall physical health.
Infections in the mouth can cause major health problems in other organ systems in the body. The connections to diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses are well-established.
“We provide dental services at four of our centers because we strongly believe that better dental care habits and early detection of potential dental problems, particularly in children, will significantly prevent dental problems as they age,” said Brian Toomey, CEO of Piedmont Health.
As part of its efforts to foster good dental care habits among children, Piedmont held Dental Health Day on March 12 at the Carrboro Community Health Center. At that event, 12 children five to 17 years old received free dental screenings. Heidi Cook, assistant dental director at Piedmont Health Services, said “Dental Health Day was very successful and parents were very grateful for the treatment their children received.”
“Children were seen for exams, x-rays, cleanings and sealants. It was successful; we will continue to do these type of events annually”, Cook said.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children ages 5 to 19, affecting approximately 1 in 5 children. Fifty-two percent of Medicaid-enrolled kids in the United States went a full year without dental care.
Piedmont’s efforts are particularly important in North Carolina. Forty percent of children in North Carolina have untreated dental decay in at least one primary tooth by kindergarten. A recent study puts North Carolina in the bottom five of states for school-based dental sealant treatment programs, considered the most effective way to give at-risk children a shot at growing up with healthy teeth.
Piedmont recommends children as young as age one get treated, through the Baby Oral Health Program. This is often done for children at the four health centers (Carrboro, Moncure, Prospect Hill and Siler City Community health Centers) that offer full dental services. It recently expanded the service to Charles Drew Community Health Center. It goes a long way in preventing illness and keeping the mouth healthy.
The event in Carrboro was particularly helpful in efforts to improve dental care because the young patients were from families without health insurance. “It provided services to children that needed care and were not able to afford it,” said Cook.