Forgive me for starting this posting with healthy snack pictures. This is really one of the answers to the tooth decay problem we have among our nation's children. But I digress...
I recently read Teeth, by Mary Otto. I knew the name Mary Otto, but frankly, the title interested me long before I knew what it was about. Ms. Otto is a journalist who published an article in the Washington Post in 2007, about a boy named Deamonte Driver. Please do not forget his name.
Deamonte died as a result of an untreated cavity. He was not the first boy to die as a result of a decayed tooth, and unfortunately he will not be the last, but after reading Mary's initial article in 2007 on his tragic death, I have taken every opportunity to share his story and how oral health care providers, caregivers, and parents all play an important role in making sure no other child has to suffer the pain of untreated tooth decay.
The book discusses the journey America is undergoing as we struggle to care for the oral health of our population. Teeth details the path our national health care system has taken to care for our general health, while failing to realize the oral cavity is connected to the body. Deamonte had dental coverage, as do most, if not all children in the United States. The problem is with the insurance reimbursement to dentists, leading to the fact that many dentists will not accept the insurance created to protect children. This child had a toothache. His mother tried to find a dentist to help the child. She was unable to find someone to treat his toothache. Deamonte subsequently developed a dental abscess that migrated into a brain abscess, tragically ending his young life.
Deamonte and his family lived in Washington D.C., which may seem far from your neighborhood. But children die more commonly than is reported as a result of a preventable disease, tooth decay. This is happening today and probably in your town. Children die during dental surgery from the anesthesia. These are children who may not have even needed surgery had the dental disease been prevented or treated in the early stages.
I write this not to scare you. OK, I do want to scare you. I want to scare all oral health care providers who read this to find a way to help your community reduce the decay rate in children. If you are a dentist, dental hygienist, or independent dental hygiene care provider, join the Halloween Candy Buy-Back program this year. Trick or treating if fun. The candy resulting "feeding of the germs" as I call is, is not! Take this opportunity to join the program and trade candy for dollars while sharing a little tidbit of dental disease prevention information with children and their parents.
Parents, ask your dentist or dental hygienist how to wean your kids from the fermentable carbohydrates (cookies, candy, cracker-like snacks). One tip: introduce healthy snacks into their diets slowly. Almonds, white cheese, fresh veges, replace the sugar and add calcium. The last thing the child should do before going to bed is to brush thoroughly, not snack. Don't give those germs sugar to feast on during the night. The old adage: Rome wasn't built in a day, is true. If you fail, keep trying. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes. I love my adages. :;-)
There is so much to say on this topic. I was challenged by a friend to update my blog today and October is always a month where Deamonte Driver is on my mind. Call an RDHAP on the map in the website and ask how we can help you and your family be free of tooth decay. Happy Halloween!
Elena Francisco, RDHAP, MS has been practicing dental hygiene for over 40 years and has been an RDHAP since 2005.